Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Talking to Children about Failure

Most people grow up with the idea that failure is a major problem in their lives and they will go to great lengths to avoid it. Often this includes avoiding many activities they would truly enjoy just because they are not comfortable with the risk of failure.

Because children often tend to compare themselves to peers, they sometimes come home from school or extracurricular activities feeling a sense of failure. Your child may also be afraid of your reaction as well. Negative reactions from parents do not help a child learn to accept failure or take risks. Trying to soften the blow and make excuses can be confusing to children. The child is trying to sort out the incident and needs support, guidance and encouragement.

The best reaction to a child who has experienced failure is for the parent to provide support and encouragement. While failure should be viewed as an unavoidable learning experience, your child may view failure as letting you down or as proof that he or she will never succeed. Failure and setbacks are opportunities to learn and successful people try to evaluate the outcome rather than focus on the win or loss. Affirm your child’s feelings and assure him that it’s OK to make mistakes. Ask your child: “What can you do differently next time?” or “Would you like me to help you practice?” Remind them that failure and mistakes are a part of life – taking a chance, even if we fail, is a powerful learning experience.

Source: Gebeke, Deb, Talking to Children about Failure, (1994) North Dakota State University, NDSU Extension Service