No one likes failure but it is a part of life. Sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes we don’t get what we want. But if we look at these situations in the right light we can teach our kids to learn to persevere, to learn to be more flexible, or to redirect their energies. There are important advantages to sending kids the message that learning new things can be difficult and that learning takes time and repeated practice. This information and these experiences will actually boost confidence, reduce fear of failure and ultimately, improve performance.
We need to give our children more opportunities to build a relationship with failure. One cure for the fear of failure is to rebrand it. If you learned something from an experience you did not fail. By rebranding failure to something as harmless as data, failure loses its sting. Whatever you did was all part of a fact-finding mission.
Alina Tuland argues in her book, Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong, that teaching kids to see mistakes and failures as part of the learning process helps them be more resilient – and far more willing to take risks. “We have to be willing to let our children struggle and fail and make mistakes without always rushing in to protect them or fix the problem, “Tuland says.
She quotes Stanford Professor Carol Dweck’s theories on “fixed mind-sets” versus “growth mind-sets.” According to Dweck, those with fixed mind-sets “believe we’re good at something-whether it’s math or baseball-or we’re not. When we have this fixed mind-set, mistakes serve no purpose but to highlight failure.” Those who have growth mind-sets, on the other hand, believe that some people may be inherently stronger in certain areas, but that everyone can improve and develop their skills and abilities. According to Tuland, people with growth mind-sets “are much more likely to be able to accept mistakes because they know that they are a part of learning.”
So what can we do as parents? Here are ideas to enhance learning and promote success:
1. Be a role model. Whatever you’re attempting, encourage your children to observe your progress. Share how you cope with the challenges.
2. Emphasize the Process. Rather than waiting on a successful outcome, focus on the process of learning and the joy that can come from mastering steps along the way.
3. Provide space for learning. When your son or daughter is faced with a challenging assignment resist the urge to immediately jump in and make it easier. Give your child a chance to tackle the challenge independently, to practice and to try different approaches.
4. Look for teachable moments. When your child has difficulty with a new task or skill, talk with him about what he is learning from the experience and ask what he might do differently next time. Help him brainstorm various strategies to accomplish his goals.
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