Learning through Failure

January 30, 2015/Parenting

teaching kids through failure

Failure. It’s something I’ve intuitively been afraid of my entire life. I’m on the cusp of reaching the top of the hill, and I’m finally figuring it all out. And because of that, I want my kids to learn it earlier than I did. Way earlier.

It seems the biggest fear Americans have is one of mediocrity. Being average now translates into being a failure. Not the star of the sports team? Failure. Not the first chair violinist? Failure. Not the math champion being courted by MIT? Failure. Not the entrepreneur of a million dollar start-up company? Epic Failure.

To alleviate our own fear of failure, we push our children to rise above mediocrity, because, of course, having children that aren’t excelling at something – anything – can only mean one thing. As a parent, you’re a failure!

The more we try to eliminate all sense of failure, the more we feel like one. I see a generation of kids who are feeling one of three things:

Like a Fraud – We keep telling our kids how wonderful they are at everything, even if they’re not. They understand our words don’t match their actions or feelings, and wonder how long it will take for everyone to figure out they’re a fraud.

Entitled – The more we tell kids they’re awesome just for who they are, instead of putting something specific behind our praise, the more they feel like they bless everyone around them just by walking into the room. They are awesome for existing. The idea that they should actually have to work hard to earn praise takes too much effort.

Performer – Many kids today feel like they have to perform at top levels to be accepted by their friends and family. They are much more performance oriented than relationship oriented, which is leading to increased levels of isolation and depression. They want to be loved and understood without constantly having to compete.

As a parent, I see failure can be good thing and hope my children come to understand that failure is a tool for learning and growth, not a sign of weakness. 

Do I want my kids to be bad at everything? Certainly not. However, I want them to understand they aren’t going to be good at everything and it’s ok. Heck, neither am I.

I want them to realize they need to work hard, practice long, and push through difficulty to get good at something.

And in the end, I want them to grasp it’s about experiencing life with others, not being the best at everything, that’s important.

If I can’t get this across to them by the time they’re 18, then I just might be a failure!

Comments (4)

  • Marmi / January 30, 2015 / Reply

    Such wise words. Wish I had learned sooner than I did!

  • Becky / February 2, 2015 / Reply

    Looks like you are going back to what I call “old time” teaching which in my book is awesome and I am so proud that you get it! I can not understand why every child at the swim meets now get a ribbon of some kind instead of when I was growing up and my boys growing up – they only gave for 1st-3rd. And all kids on the t-ball, soccer, whatever get a trophy even when their team did not win. You are teaching your kids right – keep it up. Becky

  • Sarah / February 3, 2015 / Reply

    Amen, amen and amen.

  • Lizz / February 12, 2015 / Reply

    Goin old school Sista! Just the way this world needs sto go sometimes. I need to focus more on teaching my kids this. Failure is most definitely the best way to learn and appreciate.

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(c) 2016 Leighann Marquiss