How to teach children about dealing with failure

How to teach children about dealing with failure

Parenting is quite possibly the most challenging task any person can face.  Being responsible for a young, defenseless person is not something that should be taken lightly.  Parents always want to teach their children the best life lessons that they possibly can.  We here at the Dwyer Family Foundation believe children should be helped as much as possible in order to have future model citizens.  One of the greatest ways parents can aid their children to achieve this fundamental goal is by teaching them the value and importance of failing.  Yes, one of the greatest virtues of successful citizens is that they did not let failure deter them in their lives.  They use failure as fuel and motivation to do things better and to make sure others don’t commit the same mistake they once made.  So, a couple of questions arise.  What can children learn from failure?  How can parents make sure their children do not stop trying?

Your past failures and how you came out of them paint a bright future

One of the best things parents have going for them is that children typically look up to their caregivers.  Parents who share the things that went wrong in their lives can give children a first-hand account that failure is not the end of the world but rather a step towards a better one.  If the child witnesses failure and sees that his or her parent had a positive and proactive reaction, all the better.  This gives a parent the opportunity to ask the young one whether his or her dear old dad (or mom) gave up or was affected negatively by the failure.  Having seen that mom or dad didn’t let failure get to them can have an immediate impact on a child not getting too affected by things that don’t go as expected.

Value effort over results

When things go as they should we rarely tend to think about the process.  The same happens when things go downhill.  Children tend to be too hard on themselves when the final result was completely different to what they had imagined.  Sometimes parents tend to pour salt on the wound and focus on the mistakes rather than the effort the child put into an activity or task.  Rather than concentrating on the cons parents should focus on where their child did an excellent job and reinforce the fact that they just need a little more practice in the parts that didn’t go as planned.  A little positive reinforcement goes a long way, especially in children with ADHD for example.  Never ever in a million years forget that.

If there’s no risk of serious injury, let children fail.

Parents are sometimes a little bit overzealous when it comes to avoiding failure for their children.  Unless the child is at serious risk of injury, let your child make mistakes.  They might be obvious to you but remember, for your child the things he or she does are according to what they know.  They haven’t acquired your many years of experience.  You might be greatly surprised by how your advice on dealing with failure will allow him to take it in stride and go with the blows.  However, this won’t be possible unless you give children the chance to gain their own experiences.

Image courtesy of Danel Solabarrieta at
Image courtesy of Danel Solabarrieta at

Be a kid and get curious

The curious nature of a child’s mind is one of the most beautiful things in the world.  We are constantly marveled by how children are quick to ask about anything and everything.  When explaining how to deal with failure, parents can take on the role of the child and get a little curious.  Go ahead and ask your child what he or she thinks may have happened and how it can be solved.  Once your child has given you his or her take it’s time to let the grown up in you add some additional and simple information that could be helpful for the next time around.

Things will not always go like they are supposed to.  That’s a part of life.  We are not machines that are programmed to execute tasks to perfection.  And even they have margin for error.  It is extremely important that a child learns how to deal with setbacks as well as understanding that every failure is a learning experience.  Failures should be seen as an opportunity to grow rather than an excuse to quit.  Falling off the horse and getting back up might be cliché but it’s extremely true.

Another important lesson that children must learn in order to be exemplary citizens of the world is to not be selfish.  Sharing and doing so without any interest in mind is needed in today’s world.  We recommend that you read our article on teaching children the value of giving to gain some insight on the issue.