How do you “fail your way to success”?
You may have seen the headline and thought, “What?! Failure as a GIFT for a kid?”
Let’s be real, no one wants to fail.
But failure is just a part of life.
You don’t usually succeed the first time you do something.
In fact, it would be a shame if you did.
Because failure teaches grit and perseverance.
It shows you just how strong you are.
It teaches you to believe in yourself.
In fact, Brene Brown, the leading authority on authenticity and courage, says teaching kids to learn to cope with the emotions that accompany failure is one of the best gift parents can give their kids.
Brown wants parents to let kids feel the pain that accompanies failure and let them learn to overcome it. Even when parents can fix something for their kids, she believes kids will get more value from teaching their kids to feel the emotions that follow a failure.
“Teaching them how to get curious about it, teaching them how to name it, teaching them how to ask for what they need,” she says. “That’s the gift that parents give.”
Successful entrepreneurs joke that they can take a punch to the face (metaphorically speaking) and keep moving forward.
They know by getting back up, learning from what caused the setback, adjusting and moving forward that you will fail your way to success.
So how do you teach your kids to see failure as a gift?
Focus on the Process Over the Result
Professional counselor Phyllis Farrell says, if your child comes home and says I’m terrible at math, to really have them think through, what are all the other possibilities?
Is it possible that you didn’t study enough or that you just don’t understand that concept yet or that you need to get some extra help?
Just take away that sting of the failure and really look at it more as a learning opportunity or a chance to evaluate whether they could do something in a different way,
Talk About Your Own Missteps
Farrell says, “I think for kids, they look at their parents, and it looks like this straight line.
They started at Point A and they ended up at point B. And here they are and they’re successful and everything went smoothly along the way.
They weren’t there when parents were jumping from one career to another or having self-doubt or stuck and unable to formulate a plan.
So, parents can really help open up the conversation with kids and talk to them about what really fills them with passion, what they’re really interested in, what their goals are, what they want to accomplish in life, and talk about how along the way there will be detours and there will be times when it’s not clear where they’re headed and that’s okay.
That’s how they’ve traveled along their own journey as well.”
Stop Rescuing Them
Author, pastor and mother of three, Jill Richardson, writes, “[I once] drove forty minutes to bring my 13-year-old her cleats for a track meet. I was frazzled from rush hour driving. She was anxious over potentially missing a race.
I did not encourage well; she did not run well. We both ended up stretched like a rubber band on a slingshot, not the most convivial mood to drive home.”
Sitting out a game because you forgot your cleats or turning in a homework assignment late because you left it at home are unfortunate consequences. But they’re consequences that kids have to experience in order to learn what to do differently the next time around.
Constantly rescuing your kids only enables them. It doesn’t teach them anything.
Psychologist and author Angela Lee Duckworth says grit is “passion and perseverance for very long term goals.
Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future. Day in day out.
Not just for the week. Not just for the month. But for years. And working very hard to make that future a reality.
Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
So how can you teach grit? Honestly, no one knows.
However, Dr. Carol Dweck has developed an idea called the growth mindset.
This refers to the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with effort.
Kids who learn about how the brain can change and grow in response to a challenge are much more likely to persevere when they fail because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition.
Taylor Swift is a great example, her mother says, after yet another unsuccessful trip, “she came back from that trip to Nashville and realized she needed to be different, and part of that would be to learn the guitar,” says her mother, Andrea Swift.
Earlier, she had tried picking up an acoustic guitar and had no interest in it, but things had changed. Now, at 12, she saw a 12-string guitar and thought it was the coolest thing.
And of course, we immediately said, ‘Oh no, absolutely not, your fingers are too small — not till you’re much older will you be able to play the 12-string guitar.’ Well, that was all it took. Don’t ever say never or can’t do to Taylor.
She started playing it four hours a day — six on the weekends. She would get calluses on her fingers and they would crack and bleed, and we would tape them up and she’d just keep on playing.
That’s all she played, till a couple of years later, which was the first time she ever picked up a six-string guitar. And when she did, it was like, wow, this is really easy!”
Now, the truth is, we don’t know how to teach grit.
But we do know that a child who has experience in repeated practice, attempts, failures and more attempts is far more likely to persevere to achieve success.
Final Thoughts on how to Fail your Way to Success:
We all want our children to be successful.
But it’s time to recognize and accept that part of achieving success is overcoming failures, recognizing that with each failure you learn something and become a little stronger (or perhaps a lot stronger).
Some ways to help normalize failure for your kids is to:
- Focus on the process over the result
- Talk about your own missteps
- Stop rescuing them
- Teach grit
What do you do to normalize failure for your kids? We would love to hear in the comments below!