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Ever wonder why some children throw in the towel as soon as things get tough while others get right back on the horse and try again? The fear of failure can stifle one child's progress while motivating another.
"Failure is an opportunity for a child to build their resilience muscles," says Ingrid Kellaghan, founder of Cambridge Nanny Group in Chicago. Learning to deal with failure, rejection and challenging situations shapes a child's personality and opportunity for growth. As his parent, you have the power to teach him how to get back on the horse and continue to ride along on this important journey.
Share Your Failures
When faced with failure, it's important that your child can look to you as an example and role model. Let your child observe you experiencing success and failures, according to Kellaghan. "Children may experience sadness, guilt, shame and a host of other emotions, but learning to process those feelings are critical to handling life's setbacks," says Kellaghan. Share your challenges, triumphs and your own setbacks so that your children can see how you have conquered fear and failure.
Teach your children to view failure as an opportunity for success. "Failure is an opportunity to learn," says Melody Brooke, a family therapist in Richardson, Texas. "If we analyze what happened, look at the opportunities for growth and self improvement, then our children will learn to respond that way as well."
Take your own failures and show your children what you learned from the experience to teach them the upside of failing at a task once in awhile. Simply reinforce that weaknesses are just strengths in training.
It doesn't always feel good to fail a test, miss the game-winning goal at a soccer game or lose a physical challenge at school. When down in the dumps about failure, show your children that they have support at home. "When a child does poorly on a test or strikes out in baseball, it's important not to shame him or belittle him for not doing as well as we think he can and should," says Brooke. "Instead, ask him how he feels about it and what he could do differently next time." Reinforce that you love and accept him and that you know he has the potential to do better in the future.
As difficult as it may be to witness, parents need to allow their children to fail at times. "Parents who protect their children from failure set their child up for a lifetime of disappointment and depression," says Brooke. "The only way to not make mistakes or risk failure is to do nothing, which is, of course, a mistake and a failure in and of itself."
Failure is how a child learns and develops confidence, according to Brooke. Encourage this learning and self-confidence development by responding positively to the failures. "If a child learns to respond well to failure, she will succeed in most anything she attempts," says Brooke.