Teach your children to fail

Failure exists no matter how much we try to avoid it. It is part of everyday life, and it often comes at the time when we're least expecting it. But you can't have success without failure.

It’s taken me what feels like an age to come up with my first blog post. Not because I’ve been short of ideas, in fact having too many hasn’t helped. But because of the pressure I’ve put on myself to get it right. To set the right tone, to answer the right questions, to reach the right audience. I’ve been so worried about getting it wrong, I even debated the idea of deleting the blog section on my website and keeping all my best ideas to follow – which I know will help so many parents and their children – stuck in my head.

The Irony

The irony, I thought to myself, when I discovered this realisation, while trying to destress in a much-needed hot bath and reading a book all about failure by the wonderful Elizabeth Day. (Not the obvious choice of a relaxing bath book, I must admit!) A teacher, a business owner and a parent who advocates stepping outside the comfort zone, taking risks, and celebrating mistakes in order to learn and grow, yet here I am scared to fail. Feeling ever the hypocrite, I asked myself, ‘What sort of role model does that make me?’ And after a little self-reflection, I’ll tell you what that makes me, the right role model for your child. And you are too.

Failure is part of everyday life

You see, failure exists no matter how much we try to avoid it. It is part of everyday life, and it often comes at the time when we’re least expecting it. But you can’t have success without failure. I know that I am stating the obvious here but stick with me…

As adults and active role models in our children’s lives, we try so desperately to show our best selves, keeping them away from any discomfort or negative experiences, as much as we possibly can. But only showing our best bits gives children the message that adults are perfect people who never fail and never make mistakes.

Children look up to us

Everything has to be learned, in the same way an infant learns language. If we’re not exposing our children to – not only examples of failure, but the process and skills to overcome it – we’re in very dangerous territory. With mental health problems amongst children and adolescents at an all-time high, they need now more than ever, to hear difficult feelings and experiences labelled and talked about, and witness how you can come out the other side. Of course, I’m not talking huge traumas or life events that children are unable to process or comprehend. Simply, expose them to the little hurdles we experience on a daily basis, or even relevant and relatable examples from our childhood, with the evidence it didn’t ruin our whole lives!

Emotions are big for little people

Children only have their own experiences to go from. So, when your child next shows resistance to a piece of work, attempts to get out of a sporting or social event, or panics when you ask them to do something new or a little different, just take a moment to pause. With life’s never-ending demands weighing down on us, like me, you may be guilting of saying, ‘don’t be silly, you’ll be fine,’ or expressing your own frustration without even realising it. Remember, you’ve been there. We all have.

First label their feeling

Because you have experience, you’ll be able to do this easier than they will. “You’re feeling nervous/worried/unsure/like you won’t be able to….”.

Then here’s the golden ticket – tell them the truth. Tell them you’ve been there too. “I know what it feels like to…” And explain how you got through it – even if you didn’t make the right choice at the time. On reflection, you can model to your child what you wish you had done and how you’d missed out from being afraid to fail. Because children need to know that in order to grow failure is inevitable. It’s not the end of the world, and quite often, when we do fail first time, it leads on to even better things, and deeper learning. The word fail is simply an acronym for First Attempt In Learning.

So here I am on my first attempt at blogging. Hoping it goes well and praying I’ve pitched it right but knowing I’m ok if it doesn’t quite hit the mark because it’s a first for me and, of course, I’ve still got so much to learn.

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