Quick Tips: Failure and Internal Locus of Control


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. 


Quick Tips: Dealing with Failure


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.