How failure helps kids

The world’s youngest scientists

Has your child ever dropped a spoon on the floor on purpose? You pick it up. They do it again, and again, and again. It can drive us crazy. Kids are born scientists. They want to know: Will the spoon always fall on the ground? Does it ever make a different noise? Will dad always pick it up? How come it doesn’t stay in the air? They experiment over and over to learn how their world works.

While they experimented with the world, your child was also learning from you. He learned what is and is not ok. He learns what made dad mad. By 18 months of age, children may already avoid failure. They may feel frustrated and embarrassed when they make mistakes. But what changed? They were once scientists so fixated on learning that there was no such thing as mistakes!

Fearing Failure

As your child reaches 18 months of age, his sense of pride and failure start to develop. This, plus what they have learned about failure can partially explain why some kids learn to fear mistakes.

And when we fear failure, it can:

·      Make us slow or afraid to try new things

·      Undermine our belief that we can succeed

·      Make us give up more easily

This is the reason perfectionists are often procrastinators. They fear failure and so delay starting!

Failure helps kids!

Research shows it’s a bad idea to totally protect children from failure. Children protected from adversity and failure are less likely to develop optimism. Why is that? Because when we learn that we can try again we gain confidence (1). We learn that we can overcome our mistakes (2). We learn we are strong and resilient (3).
Making mistakes is not just a natural part of learning. It teaches us compassion for others (4). When we accept our own mistakes and imperfections, it helps us accept others. When we are free from the fear of failure, we do not fear judgment. Accepting and growing from our mistakes makes us better team players, friends, and people (5).

Really examine our mistakes?

Thinking about our failures can be painful. And so often we try to pick ourselves up, forget about what happened, and move on. We think this is easier and better. And it may be easier at the time, but mistakes have a way of being repeated over and over again. All successful people have made mistakes. Trained athletes, top chess players, and many other professionals carefully analyze every mistake they make. And those that examine their mistakes learn from them. They improve their skills faster than those who ignore their mistakes.

Thomas A. Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He made many things that didn’t work. He eventually invented the motion picture camera, the phonograph, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. There are new industries because of his inventions.

This week we will look at mistakes and failure. Learning and growing from our mistakes may be one of the best skills you can teach your child.