You have cooed, cuddled and coddled your babies since birth and raised them with tags like Superman or Power Puff Girl. Well, to every parent their child is the winner!
But then there comes the time of reality check- your little one is growing up, getting familiar with the school of hard knocks. From not winning fancy dress competition to failing getting a grip on the bicycle
to forgetting his lines at the school play…It’s hard to see your little champ fail & get hurt.
As parents, we want to protect our children from anyone or anything that could cause them pain: illness, injury, hurtful words or situations. In a way, we don’t want them to feel the pain associated with failing because we know how it feels. As an over-protective loving parent, you want nothing more than to intervene and make his troubles go away. However, we also know that the best lessons in life are learned through experience. If we don’t let them fall, how will they learn how to get back up? And if we don’t let them fail, how will they learn to pick themselves up and try again?
The process of making and learning from mistakes is an extremely valuable life skill because learning involves risking. Every time children risk, they will not always be right. But, because they’ve tried something new, there’s always the chance they will succeed. Each new success enhances self-esteem. Each esteem-enhancing experience refuels their desire to try again and again and again.
Going back to our own childhood, I am sure you would agree that fear of failure ties down the mind. It makes a child mentally weak and tired. In fact, it can make them incapable of achieving anything in life, even though they are capable of reaching the highest levels of success.
But then avoiding failure in life is almost impossible, right?
So how can we as parents help erase the idea that ‘mistakes are bad’? How can we maintain that thin line between protecting our kids from pain and teaching them to handle it; between supporting them where they are and challenging them to stretch themselves; between encouraging them to ‘play to win’ and preparing them to handle failure.
Redefine the Meaning of failure
Instead of making it sound big, scary and end-of-life kind of situation, show your children that failure is more about self-development than about defeat. Start drilling this into them from an early age, so that it’s the rule rather than the exception in their books. Introduce the concept of ‘trial & error’ and ‘learning & adapting’ in every activity kids indulge in, whether it’s sports, art, music, learning to eat, writing, talking and walking.
How about defining failure as ‘not trying’? As Parents one can stress upon the fact that the only way to fail is to not try. As parents of today, redefine the meaning of failure for kids as-
- Cheating, lying, not taking responsibility for themselves is failure.
- Not giving their best effort or not doing what is in their interest is failure.
- Looking out for short cuts to do work or getting influenced by peer pressure Is failure.
- Disrespecting elders, not being empathetic to others and being selfish is failure.
Develop the concept of “Plan B”
Let’s face it- one of the inevitable facts of life is that everyone makes mistakes. But we know that there always exists a worst-case scenario. Start practicing this with your child. Sit and brainstorm together for “what if” situations. Ask them questions- “What if you fumble while reciting the poem…or miss the goal, what’s the worst thing that could happen?”. Eventually kids learn the skill of handling a situation with a several possible ways out.
Today’s overprotective, failure-avoiding parenting has undermined the competence, independence and academic potential of an entire generation. I’m as guilty as most of you- I’ve extended my children’s dependence in order to feel good about my parenting. Something as basic as lacing up their shoes to packing their school bag sends the message to your child that they’re slow and incompetent. So instead of being a savior, be a guide for your child. This will build self-confidence and bring happiness when one is able to see one’s achievements through trying and learning from mistakes or obtaining what was deemed impossible.
Encourage Positive Self-talk
Fear of failure is a psychological phenomenon. In such a case, encouraging and positive words help raise self-confidence and motivation. That works like nutritious tonic to your children. If you notice your child is very tense and concerned about making mistakes, help him/her learn to say inside his/her head a positive, affirming statement such as ‘I am calm and in control’ or ‘I will try my best’. The more your child says the statement, the more he/she will begin to believe it.
More Self-talk phrases can be: “I can do it”; “I am capable”; “I have the ability”; “I am as good as my classmates”.
Have Conversations about Success and Failure of Famous Personalities
Did you know Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers? Well, look around and you would see the most successful adults are rarely those whose childhood were one long string of victories, accolades and gold stars. Rather they’re people who’ve had their share of bumps, bruises and battles along their path to adulthood. With grit, confidence and clear vision, they stretched and went beyond failures to pursue their dreams. Talk about such personalities with your kids. See documentaries, TED Talks and make them believe that failure is an event not a person. Have Conversations about Success and Failure of Famous Personalities
As parents, we’re wired with an inbuilt desire to protect our children from the harder realities of life whether the sting of rejection or the disappointment of failure. But left unchecked, this can deprive them from learning the most important life skill, and one they will inevitably need: how to find the courage and motivation to get back up. So how do you help kids fail, or rather, how do you help kids deal with fear of failure?
When learning a new skill, like public speaking or playing chess, there are many steps children may find difficult to execute. If we allow them to struggle and let them fail, we may be surprised to discover they can find a solution themselves. At Dolphin POD, the activities are designed to provide an appropriate level of challenge. Activities that shouldn’t frustrate children and offer a balanced approach towards learning with elements of Play (P), Others (O) & Downtime (D). This gives them a sense of accomplishment they can be proud of and can call their own.
The more children try, fail, and try again, the more they will learn how to solve problems, overcome adversity and to deal with failure; all critical life skills that will be needed to grow up as happy, healthy and successful beings.
By RoopikaSareen (Parenting blogger- Go Mommy)