Below are two more quick tips for helping children navigate experiences of failure.
Encourage them to try new things
- Trying new things can inspire them and provide new avenues for success. This doesn’t mean giving up on an activity that they have expires failure in. Remind them to keep working through a failure AND to try new things.
Role model failing gracefully
- Show them how to lose gracefully when playing a board game or a sport. Congratulate the winners even when you’re on the losing end.
- Laugh at yourself! It’s no fun to take yourself too seriously and kids know it. Show them that making mistakes and failing can be OK and even humorous at times.
- Stay motivated. When you fail, you can role model resilience by continuing to work through the problem.
- Talk with them about your feeling of failure and about how your worked through a tough experience.
Another week, another post on everyone’s favorite subject-failure!
Failure is of course unavoidable. You can help your child cope by assisting them to create an internal locus of control by reminding them that they don’t need someone else to say they are the best, in order to be their best. Additionally, they don’t need to blame others for their mistakes.
Julian Rotter first brought the concept of internal or external locus of control to light in the mid 20th century and many aspects of it hold true today. The theory states that someone has a a strong internal locus of control if they believe that what happens to them is largely their doing, while someone with a strong external locus of control believes that their life is controlled by luck, or by other people.
Of course, there are many things in life that we don’t have control over. You can refer to my previous post on control and anxiety to take a peek at my thoughts on the subject. Still, having a internal locus of control allows the individual to feel empowered by their own actions. It’s important to note that the danger of of an overly fortified internal locus of control is overconfidence and/or lack of perspective. We have to keep in mind the societal and cultural structures in which we live in, which affect our lives outcomes. Rotter’s work could be improved if he included the interaction of social privilege and locus of control.
Simply put, a healthy balanced individual with an internal locus of control can find success because they are empowered to work for it, and believe they can succeed. And when they fail, which they will at some point, they often own their part of the failure and strive to fix it. On the other hand, an individual with an external locus of control will blame the people around them for their failures and are less likely to fix their mistakes.
By helping your child stray from blaming others for their failures and instead look at their part, they will be able to build on their mistakes. They can then learn from said mistakes and in the end find more success. Model self-reflective behavior, probe them with questions when they experience failure, and help them feel excited to do better next time.
The joy of learning. Together.
Here are this weeks quick tips on how to help your child deal with experiences of failure.
- Remind them that everyone fails sometimes, and that failure often leads to lessons about how to do something better next time. At the very least it teaches you about your own reactions to making mistakes and how to transform your reactions into actions.
- Comparing is despairing. This is one of my favorite quick reminders. There will always be someone who does something better then you, or at least appears to. But we don’t know the whole story, we don’t know what their experiences are. We only know what our experiences are, and that’s what’s important.
- Remind them that there is always time to try again! Tomorrow is a new day, and no matter what you get to be part of the world. My father once told me (after a moment of extreme embarrassment), “Well, they can’t kick you out of the world.” And he was right, I’m still here making mistakes and learning everyday.
The joy of learning. Together.
What I’m Reading: “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown. I first learned about Brene Brown when I heard her do a TEDtalk and I was blown away. “Rising Strong” is about my worst fear-failure. I mean, that and dying a fiery death in an airplane crash. On the bright side, failure is more likely and less deadly. Honestly though, as a perfectionist failure feels like it might kill me sometimes. If you too struggle with failure, read “Rising Strong”. You won’t regret it.
Building Confident Learners: Speaking of failure, there is nothing more satisfying in the world of learning than a success after some struggle or even failure. Allowing children to make mistakes and fail, creates a safe space to actually learn and make connections. Striving for excellence is not the same as striving for perfection. If a child expects perfection, they will inevitably fail because, YOU GUYS (or maybe I should start working in ya’ll) PERFECTION IS NOT REAL. If a child expects excellence however, there is more wiggle room for errors in the process.
What Gives Me Joy: Wouldn’t it be neat if I could say something like “ I love failing!”, or “Making mistakes is a blast!”? It sure would. But I can’t honestly say that, so I won’t. I do love learning and have come to terms with the fact that learning often involves making a mistake or two. So this week I’ll say that I am joyful about getting better at making mistakes and being patient with myself and others.
The joy of learning. Together.
In a society where every child gets a prize for participating, how can we help our children lose with grace? Let’s face it, after childhood you stop getting awards for participation. This unfortunate reality is hard to swallow especially when children have very little experience with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting praise, respect, and cheering on aren’t necessary. I am suggesting however, that we aren’t doing our children any favors by contantly giving them awards for simply showing up. To put it into perspective, when was the last time you were given a trophy for being on time for work? Or a handed a pretty ribbon for cleaning up the dinner dishes? There are plenty of loving and wonderful things you can do to help a child be an active participant in their academics, sports, and other extracurricular activities without feeling like they need to receive something to make it all worth while. The gift of losing gracefully is the ability to see that your worth is inherently always there, win or lose. If a child can master this mindset success will follow. Below are a few quick tips to help you child deal with failure. More to come next week!
- Positive verbal affirmations. For example: “You did you’re best and I’m so proud of you!” It’s important to give them authentic praise. Skip going overboard with made-up compliments to ease their pain. You can certainly find things that they did well and praise them accordingly.
- Point out the fun that was had even when they lose and help them explore things they can be proud of. For example: “What was your favorite part of today?” and “I know you lost, and what do you think you did well?”
- Let them be sad about losing and talk them through their feelings. Sometimes the disappointment of losing is very strong and should be addressed. Allow them the space to feel sad about it, and then help them move on.