“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” That quote from Winston Churchill, and others like it, is something we hear all the time from people that have changed our world.
And while we, as parents, understand that failure is ultimately a part of life (and an opportunity to learn), convincing our kids is another story.
And as challenging as it is to help our kids not fear failure, and even graduate to embracing it, it indeed is one of the greatest gifts that we can give them.
To help you with this difficult task, let’s take a look at a few strategies that you can use to teach your kids not to fear failure.
1Help Them Develop a Growth Mindset
As a mentor to our children, it’s essential that we help them understand that nothing about the traits, skills, or abilities that they currently have are fixed for their lifetime.
Every single thing about our children’s lives, from how well they play a particular sport or instrument to their math or science grade, can be improved through hard work, discipline, and a commitment to improvement.
Carol Dweck, author of the Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, talks about the two general mindsets that are found in children and their parents. They include:
- Fixed Mindset. With this mindset, an individual believes that their basic abilities (such as intelligence and talent) are fixed. In other words, they think they were “born” with certain positive abilities and that skills that they weren’t born with cannot be learned.
- Growth Mindset. With this mindset, the individual believes that their talents and abilities can be developed through a combination of discipline, effort, good teaching, and persistence. In other words, they believe that their current skills can be improved. This is a key point in how to teach your kids not to fear failure
Most children with a fixed mindset fear failure because they don’t see the point in trying to improve on something that is fixed.
And the scariest part is, it’s easy to create this fixed mindset and fear of failure in children without even trying.
Even something as simple as innocently saying, “they’re not the athlete in the family” because they tripped and fell when trying to kick a soccer ball can do permanent damage to a child’s mindset.
So how can we develop a growth mindset in our children? How do you teach your kids not to fear failure?
Well, for one, you can start by emphasizing effort and the process that they take to achieve something rather than the outcome.
Also, parent and blogger Sue Lively’s article on the 10 Ways to Teach Kids to Have a Growth Mindset is a great resource to point you in the right direction.
2Help Them Understand That Failure = Learning
One of my favorite strategies for teaching my kids not to fear failure is to help them understand that failure equals learning.
To do this, I often give examples of people that have failed numerous times in their profession, learned from their mistakes, and persevere in pushing themselves to success.
But an even more effective way of doing this is to give them examples related to their interests.
For example, my oldest son is obsessed with planes, and his current goal is to become a pilot.
We often travel as a family, and he always makes sure to introduce himself to everyone working with the particular airline that we’re using and let them know he’s going to work with them one day.
One night, he was having a particularly tough time with his math homework and was becoming extremely frustrated after doing poorly on the previous test.
He was ready to give up and made a statement to the effect of, “I’m just not good at math.”
To help encourage, I reminded him of the story of the Wright Brothers (the pioneers of aviation) and how many times they failed before finally making a plane that worked.
We even watched a short documentary on YouTube that made it clear that the only reason for their success was their commitment to learning and improving from their failures.
Motivated by this, he went on to complete the homework entirely by himself and has been doing very well in his math classes since then.
This same strategy can be used for your children to help them understand that failure is all part of the process.
3Help Them Understand That the Worst Case Scenario Isn’t That Bad
Another effective strategy for reducing your child’s fear of failure is to do the “worst-case scenario” exercise with them.
This can be done by either talking through a situation or, for best results, by writing things out on a piece of paper.
To do it, simply ask, “If absolutely everything went wrong, what’s the worst thing that could happen?”
While you’ll get some creative, and unrealistic, answers in some cases, most of the time you’ll be able to show them that the worst-case scenario isn’t that bad.
And that, in almost every instance, chasing success and not fearing failure is well worth the risk.
Hopefully, these strategies will serve you well as you do your best to teach your kids not to fear failure.
And, if a particular strategy doesn’t work, be sure to take your advice and learn from your own mistakes as well!