Kas Winters

Teach Children to Benefit from Failure

Teach Children to Benefit from Failure
by Kas Winters, Mother of Family Ideas™

Kas Winters

Kas Winters

The feeling we get when we fail at something is not usually a happy one. Often the first response of a parent is to try to  “make it better” for a child. In society today, we’ve gone as far as making sure that “every” child wins and gets a prize. That does two things. First it diminishes the sense of accomplishment for those who have actually accomplished the goal. Second, those who really did not “win” usually know it inside. Most children are very aware of the reality.  Some will decide that they don’t have to put out any effort because they will get a reward anyway. Instead of the “win-win” situation we attempt to create, we actually set things up so no one ultimately feels like a winner.

There are some other approaches that can be more beneficial. The way we learn to succeed is by continuing to try things and learn what does and doesn’t work. This is true no matter how young or old a person is. It has been said that if we are not making mistakes, we aren’t making any progress either. In my experience, it has been better to allow kids to try things and see what happens. They will not always win. They will not always succeed the first time out. If they are encouraged to keep looking for ways to solve problems instead of receiving false praise or sympathy, they will eventually succeed. You can’t put a price tag on that feeling of true success! Once they’ve experienced it, anything feels possible and they are willing to work hard, accept the failures along the way, and persevere because the thrill of really winning is worth what it takes to get there.

Watch a child who is learning to walk. They get up and take a step or two. Then they fall and try again–over and over and over. They learn to walk by falling, getting up, and doing it again. This is how we all learn. We keep watch over a little one learning to walk, and we know there may be some
bumps along the way, but we still encourage them to take those baby steps.

Older children thrive with encouragement as well. Instead of pampering and sympathy when things do not go well, help them acknowledge the successes they did have. They prepared, learned, did the work or training or whatever was necessary. By showing up and participating, they really did win in many ways. Those who failed are the ones who didn’t make it to the starting line at all.

Take time to listen to how a child feels about the experience, then work together to evaluate ways to improve, make adjustments and try again. How a child feels is a key point. Sometimes they feel obligated to take part and don’t care whether they win or not and other times succeeding can be of
utmost importance. Listen to what they say. Support goals that originate in the young person. Imposing our goals on our children might succeed on the surface, but not always in terms of happiness for the child. While our kids are often share our interests, they are entitled to explore and set goals of their own. Ask what they want to do.

This sequence works no matter what the situation might be–learning a skill, participating in sports, entering a contest, passing a test in school, singing in a group, learning to play an instrument,  writing a paper for class, or handing a relationship problem with a friend. Teach a child to set goals, and find out what it will take to reach them. Encourage practice, research, and development of skills. Take success one step at a time and when it arrives, rejoice together. One of my favorite sayings as our children were growing up was, “I’m certain you can handle it.” I was and they did.

For April family ideas, go to:  http://www.winmarkcom.com/aprilholidays.htm To order my book with more than 5,000 activities that teach, and develop self-esteem and confidence while children are having fun, go to:http://www.winmarkcom.com/motherlode.htm.

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