I had my share of struggles with the F word. Fortunately, time and experience open your eyes. I have come to understand the hidden beauty and necessity of this very little understood expression.
But what if your child too is struggling with talk of the F word?
F for FAILURE.
As a parent, that raises my concern.
“Argh! Mummy! I can’t tie my shoelaces! I can’t!”
“Mum, I hate Maths!. I couldn’t answer the questions the teacher asked me!”
“My project wasn’t accepted, I can’t do anything right!”
“I didn’t make it into the football team.”
“Mum, somebody stole my bike from the playground!!!”
Are these few examples of our children’s misfortunes and frustrations signs of being a “bad parent”? Many of us fear to be judged as such. So we play superhero and from a bird’s-eye view, foresee all possible setbacks to zap out of our youngsters’ way. Such a mindset could actually sabotage our children’s ability to really learn and succeed in life.
How then do we prepare and equip them with the best mindset for success, familiarizing them with the inevitable events of failure?
Here are 10 ways parents can help children get comfortable with the F word and build resilience, a vital ingredient for progress.
- DO REDEFINE SUCCESS
The most popular definition of success we come across in the dictionary is “the accomplishment of goals and attainment of wealth, position, honors.”
This definition may be true, but seems to forget one very important factor, which is that behind every SUCCESS is a line of FAILURES and every FAILURE has a straight line towards SUCCESS. That applies to financial, relationship, family, social and spiritual success.
Based on the life experiences of any successful person in the book, children must be brought to understand that failure and success are inseparable. The truth about success must be embedded in their hearts so when they encounter difficulties, they understand it is part of the process towards achieving their goal, even if it is as simple as learning how to tie shoelaces.
- DO CELEBRATE
Create an occasion to “celebrate” failure with your children (I don’t mean throwing a party for family and friends and having a blast!). If your child comes home feeling totally resigned because he or she didn’t pass the Maths test, didn’t make it to the school’s dance group or lost his bike in the park, the last thing you want to do is get angry and scream.
The best thing is ask about the HOWs instead of the WHYs.
“How did it happen?
“What lessons have you learnt from this situation?”
The answers are pretty honest.
“I have to spend more time practicing my timetables.”
“I should take my dance lessons more seriously.”
“I mustn’t leave my toys in the park unattended to.”
WONDERFUL! A lesson has been learnt, a stepping stone forward has been made. Your child is an experience wiser. THAT CALLS FOR A CELEBRATION!
Bake a cake, take a walk to the park with the whole family or simply watch a nice family movie under the blanket with some hot chocolate (keep it simple). Your child must know there is value in failure because once the lesson has been learnt, things only get better.
- DO GIVE RESPONSIBILITY
So your child has to stay behind in school because his or her swimming kit wasn’t packed, or goes to school with unfinished assignments and has to face the consequences. Better still, your child comes home to an unexpectedly messy bedroom.
Taking it upon yourself to organize your child’s life just to avoid undesired consequences does more harm than good. You prevent your little one from experiencing setbacks, leaving little or no opportunity to learn from mistakes. When children take responsibility for their actions (relevant to their age), they automatically take responsibility for their success too. They learn, grow and flourish through failure.
- DO MODEL THE ROLE
Our children learn from observation and copy the way us parents deal with everyday occurrences. Let’s say a set of China plates fall and break as you were putting them into the cupboard. Do you yell and swear or do you take the opportunity to teach a lesson?
“Mummy has broken her favourite plates. Mummy must be more careful next time and not carry too many plates at the same time.”
You have had one of the toughest weeks ever and nobody dares comes in your way. Do you snap at anything and anybody around you or do you deal with the frustration appropriately?
“Mummy has had a difficult week. Why don’t we take a walk to the park for some fresh air and some ice-cream?”
Whatever the scenario, be aware of your reactions. You are being watched. If we want our children to control their emotions when trouble happens, we must manage ours first. So be the model, the role-model.
- DO PRAISE THE EFFORT NOT THE OUTCOME
Have you ever noticed times when a lot of effort and enthusiasm go into a child’s work but still doesn’t get the desired results? I remember watching my 2 year old son trying to put on a pair of socks. He would get only one toe in and wouldn’t be able to take it any further. He would pull and pull until he burst out into tears shouting, “I can’t! I can’t!”
“Oh my son, but you how you have tried! Well done!”
Praising the process in which your child achieved or didn’t achieve something is very encouraging and demonstrates the importance of the journey rather than the destination. My son is now 2 ½ and he can get 5 toes into a sock. Hurray!
When our children realize it is the effort that counts, failure is no longer feared. They know they will get there.
- DO TAILOR THE TASK
It is fundamental to be aware that children develop at different stages and ages. Some start to use full sentences at 2, others at 3. Some aren’t physically mature enough to hold a pencil correctly at the age of 4, yet some schools expect them to start writing at a certain standard. This leads to an avalanche of emotions such as low self-esteem, resignation and lack of enthusiasm.
As parents we must avoid bombarding our children with expectations they aren’t physically, mentally or emotionally ready for. Do not force, encourage. Do not dictate, guide. Do not label them according to their inabilities; praise their abilities.
Like flowers in spring, some children blossom in the beginning, some in the middle, and some at the end. Then, they all blossom together!
- DO PREDICT & DISCUSS
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”- Albert Einstein
Encourage your child to try new things. What is the worst thing that could happen?” Answering this question gets your child comfortable with confronting fear and prepares him or her for any eventual setback. If it’s not going to kill you or physically harm you, there is every reason to try and every reason to face your fear, even if it means falling and having to get up again. Before that big class test, audition, football game or any other challenging event, together predict the possible outcomes and discuss the appropriate reactions.
“If I make it into the school’s football team, I will take that responsibility seriously and make sure I stay committed.”
“If I don’t make it, that’s not the end of the world. If I really want it, I will practice more and come back much better prepared next time.”
“If I don’t pass the test, it means there is more I can learn. I will take the test again next week and will be better prepared.”
Creating a growth mindset helps get rid of limiting beliefs, creates a spirit for learning in your child and instead of perceiving failure as the end of the road, your child will see it as an opportunity to improve. What a precious lesson for the future!
- DO GIVE UNINTERRUPTED FREE PLAY TIME
The lion cubs that are left to play freely learn how to hunt by surprising their prey and how to win or lose a fight during their wrestling games. It is also said that the bear cubs that play the most are the ones that survive the best.
This applies to our little ones. They must be left to play freely without any particular structure or interruption. Negotiation skills are picked up, relationships are built, learning takes place naturally, and children see that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose – a vital skill to acquire.
- DO WATCH AND READ INSPIRATIONAL VIDEOS AND BOOKS
Children learn a lot from what they see and hear. Using this ability to their advantage can help them cope with setbacks and see failure as an element towards success. Films such as Mulan, Annie, Stand by Me, and Lorenzo’s Oil demonstrate resilience, grit and compassion. Watching such films together provides valuable talking points about perseverance as well as a reference to how failure and setbacks can be dealt with, how personal growth takes place through experience, and how to turn a disadvantage into an advantage.
Surrounding our children with such positive stimuli creates a healthy environment to gain confidence and tackle life’s offerings with courage.
- DO LOVE AND ACCEPT
As obvious as it may seem, this may be one of the most important things you can do. Shower your child with love every day. Even when you yell, lose your cool, ignore them or make any other parental mistake, always end it with a hug, a kiss and “I am sorry.”
When your child feels loved and accepted, it is easier to get through hard times. He or she won’t be embarrassed to ask for help and will confide in you. Always knowing there is a shoulder to lean on builds confidence and resilience. Teaching your child to feel comfortable with failure doesn’t mean you encourage failure. Allowing setbacks to happen naturally and not always intervening doesn’t make you a “bad parent”.
There is a hidden beauty in failure because there is growth. Our job as parents is to walk with our children through their failure, giving unconditional love and assurance that with the right attitude, all will be well and it’s definitely not the end of the world.
About The Author
Veronica was born and bred in Ghana. She holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and has taught children in Poland and the UK. Fascinated by The Law of Belief, Veronica has made it her mission to arm others with empowering beliefs. Veronica runs her own blog, thegoldminetreasure.com as a Personal Life Coach and is an Inspirational Blogger for the HuffingtonPost UK and Lifehack.org as well as the creator of the online handbook, 22 Questions to Ditch Self-Limiting Beliefs. Veronica believes “Whatever Your Mind Can Conceive, It Can Achieve.”
Teacher, Writer, Motivational Blogger and Speaker