In a world that often emphasises perfection and success, many children and teenagers struggle to cope with the idea of failure. The fear of failure can be paralysing and it can lead to a mindset that defines them by their shortcomings. Failure, however, is not something to be feared; it's an essential part of the learning process, and those who learn to handle failure are more likely to succeed in the long run.
But how do we teach our children to embrace failure and learn from it?
I would say that the first thing we need to do as parents and educators is show empathy. We tend to rush to reassure our children that everything will be okay and they'll do better next time, but are we just brushing off their failure and their need to face adversity by doing so? When things have gone wrong, our children need to feel and hear that we acknowledge their disappointment and frustration and that it is okay to feel down. This fosters a sense of understanding and trust, which then provides a safe space for reflection. Discussing what can be done differently for a better chance at success next time helps in accepting that things didn’t go well, whilst also encouraging reflection and problem-solving. And that is crucial for learning and growth.
Another important factor in our children dealing with failure is how we handle our own as adults. We have a tendency to hide our own failures from our children, striving to be role models in everything we do. However, it’s essential to remember that all of us have faced setbacks. Sharing these experiences can help our children realise that failure is a part of life and that it is how we respond to it that truly matters.
Lastly, we need to celebrate our children’s effort as much as their achievements. The idea that nothing comes easy, and that hard-work, perseverance and resilience are essential for us to succeed, will help our children understand that failure is not a dead end; it's a stepping stone on the path to success. By supporting and encouraging them through these challenging moments, we empower them to become resilient, confident, and capable individuals ready to take on the world.
Written by Ms Cheyns, Assistant Head (Head of Sixth Form)