Help Your Kids Make Mistakes and Avoid Failure Phobia
Never bring up past mistakes. “Tommy, this is the third time you’ve tipped over your milk today.”
Teach your children to develop “failure tolerance” by not over-reacting to their mistakes. Focus on the solution, not the problem or whose to blame. For instance, if Billy misses a fly ball in the outfield in the last inning, instead of saying, “Gosh Billy, how could you miss that easy catch?” you might try saying something like, “I noticed how upset you were when you missed that fly ball, but wow, those two runs you made really helped the team out. It shows how hard you’ve been working on your batting. I bet if you and I practiced catching every day after school, you’re outfield catching will get a lot better, too. Wanna give it a whirl?”
Encourage your children to do things on their own, whenever possible. We shouldn’t rescue them from their struggles, settle their conflicts, or shelter them from challenges unless absolutely necessary. These actions send a message that they can’t make choices or manage tasks without our help. It also suggests a perfect result is more important than the attempt, itself.
Never compare your child to others. “Bobby, why can’t you be a big boy like John and stop whining all the time?”
Address the behavior, not the child: “Hitting is not allowed,” instead of “Quit being so mean.”
Never openly belittle others for their mistakes.
Always point out the successes that are buried in every failure. If Megan spills the milk, point out how she got her own cup out of the cupboard, lifted the milk carton up by herself, and so on.
Accept suffering as a good thing. When children struggle, they develop strength and compassion. They also learn that suffering is something they can overcome. When I was observing a class of children with learning problems, their interactions really had an impact on me. These were kids who had suffered a lot at the hands of teachers and parents who constantly expressed their feelings of exasperation, anger and disappointment. They had suffered the burdens of such labels as lazy, procrastinator, stupid, slow and so on. I could see that through all this suffering, they had developed compassion and understanding for others. They were so eager to help one another, praise those who were conquering a task they were struggling with, and console those who were upset or frustrated. Many children never develop this wonderful quality.
Once our children use their mistakes and failures as a tool to help them learn and grow, imagine the repercussions! They’re more willing to take risks, learn new skills and explore the unknown. The skills and abilities they’d inevitably gain then leads to a strong sense of independence. The result is a healthy self-esteem. And what about the benefits for the rest of the world? Throughout history, risk takers like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Madam Curie, the Wright brothers, and Jonas Salk have blessed us with much that is wonderful in our world.
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