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Why should you let your children experience failure?

mother protecting her son from failure with bubble wrap

Key points:

  1. Allowing children to fail safely and learn from their mistakes helps them build resilience, which is essential to raising a confident, happy, and successful adult.
  2. Being too involved and overpraising children’s intelligence, talents, and abilities can actually diminish their confidence and hinder their willingness to tackle challenging tasks.
  3. To raise resilient and confident children, parents should be reliable but not intrusive, involve children in the decision-making process, let children solve their own problems, use failure as a teachable moment, and be a positive role model for handling setbacks and challenges.
  4. Teaching children to cope with failure helps them develop important skills such as creative thinking, problem-solving skills, and emotional resilience.

Once a baby comes into the world, it becomes a parent’s innate desire to support them as they grow and protect them from failure and heartaches.

Life has completely changed because now someone’s life depends on you to grow and develop happily. This new responsibility is not a burden; it is something you are willing to do out of love. However, this inherent vow to protect your baby from any harm does not mean you should go over the top and guard them against any possible setback or failure. It means letting them fail safely.

Change of mindset: Failure is good since it leads to learning

Letting children fail safely is easier said than done. As time goes by, many parents have started to believe that “more” is better. For example, giving “more” praise, helping out “more”, so their children don’t feel stressed, and the list goes on. Although they have the best intentions, these actions actually backfire.

Many parents have a difficult time watching their children “fail”. And who could blame them? All you want to do is see your children succeed, so how could you stand seeing them struggle? Where are parents supposed to draw the line?

The ideal parent is involved and responsible but respects their child’s autonomy. Although it may feel uncomfortable, parents need to let their children make mistakes. Letting them learn from their mistakes and failure helps children build resilience, an essential part of raising a confident, happy, and successful adult!

Careful with the compliments!

We have also talked about the topic of resilience in previous posts, specifically about Carol Dweck‘s research in regards to the damages certain types of praise impose on children.

“Resilience is actually built through children coping with occasional bumps, not by only experiencing perfectly smooth rides as they travel through childhood.” -Judith Locke, clinical psychologist

Showering a child with compliments can do more harm than good. It may seem contradictory, but praising children’s intelligence, talents, and abilities has been shown to diminish their confidence. It is better to focus on praising their effort instead. Because when parents praise their children’s intelligence, they will be less likely to choose challenging tasks for the risk of losing their “smart” status.

It has been shown that the happiest, most successful children have parents who don’t do for them what they are capable of doing themselves. A critical part of growing up is to develop a sense of autonomy, confidence, and mastery. For example, if you treat your walking toddler as if they can’t walk, you will weaken their confidence. If you are always trying to shield and rescue your children, you are depriving them of challenges, which means they are missing out on developing the tools they will need in the future to handle the inevitable and difficult demands of life.

Raise resilient and confident children

The best way to prepare your children for life’s challenges is to provide them with opportunities to develop resilience within a safe, loving, and supportive environment.

Here are some things you should try:

Be reliable, but not intrusive

Before your parental protection instinct kicks in, ask yourself “Can my little one handle this situation safely?”. Just pay attention to details and be aware of all dangers. A child who desires to do something such as climbing a tree should be allowed to do so, unless, of course, there is an imminent threat such as bees being around and the child is allergic to them.

Involve your child in the decision-making process

Before making a decision, take the time to present it to your little one. It doesn’t have to be a critical decision, it could be as easy as picking out outfits. By letting your child pick out their outfit of the day, it will help them learn what makes them feel comfortable and what doesn’t. You could also ask them to select the best road to take home. Explain the difference between the two roads and let your child choose. In the end, assess the outcome of taking one route versus the other. In other words, provide feedback for their decision.

Be patient. Let them solve their problems

Often parents rush in to help their little ones when they are struggling –either due to a lack of time on the parents’ part or because they dislike seeing them struggle. Either way, you should try to let your child solve their problems first, or offer to do it together. Whether it’s tying their shoelaces or pouring a glass of milk. It may take your child a few attempts to tie their shoes or even some spills when pouring milk, but it will help them develop self-confidence, as they master a task and can figure out things on their own!

Use failure as a teachable moment

If your little one has failed in something they did, try to teach them about acceptance and problem-solving skills. Try to ask your child what they could do to have a better result the next time, what they have learned from that, or what they could change. With this, you will help them build frustration tolerance.

Be a role model

Your child watches you closely every day, so you must handle your setbacks gracefully. If you tend to panic every time you are late or misplace your phone, you’re not demonstrating healthy coping skills! Remember to take responsibility when you forget something. Show your little one that adults make mistakes too and own up to them.

Overall, remember that a little disappointment can actually benefit your child, as long as you teach them how to bounce back from it and cope with failure. Learning to deal with setbacks is like learning to ride a bike, you may fall sometimes, but you always get back on. By learning to deal with failure, your little one will develop important skills they’ll need to succeed, such as creative thinking, problem-solving skills, and emotional resilience!


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