Help your children see that we can work through failures without allowing them to define us, says Christy Herselman.
A few years ago I came across a podcast entitled, “Why is my teenage son so lazy?” Having pre-teen sons myself and knowing that they were sometimes hard to motivate, I was intrigued. The podcast was a fascinating discussion with child psychologist Adam Price, and the gist of it was that many boys appear to be lazy – not because they don’t want to succeed, but because they are scared of failing.
Growing up in a world where the limelight and accolades seem reserved for the best of the best, the good life is defined as having wealth and status, and being in the A team and A class is the goal, is not easy for any child. And so sometimes they just opt out.
This podcast was an eye-opener for me and really shifted the way I parented and engaged with the children in my care. When talking to them about failure, I remind them of the example of JK Rowling; the immensely talented, billionaire author who gave us the Harry Potter series. When Rowling wrote the first book in the series her marriage had just ended, she had severe depression, and she was penniless and living on welfare to support herself and her child. In her own words, “I was the biggest failure I knew.”
And once she had finished the book, her fairytale ending did not magically appear. Publishers were completely uninterested in her book, and she was rejected 12 times before she finally found someone who would take a chance on her.
Most of our children won’t become famous authors or billionaires, but there is so much we as parents can do to help them embrace failing and use it to propel them forward. Here are a few things we can teach our kids:
• Failing doesn’t make you a failure. Failing is a real, a necessary part of the human experience, and not a permanent state of being. We need to work through failures without allowing them to define us.
• Failing gives you knowledge and experience you can’t get any other way. Perhaps it teaches us that more effort is required, that we need to try something a different way, or that we need to develop other skills to succeed.
• Failing builds resilience. I imagine Rowling feeling rejected and dejected after being turned away from publishing houses again and again. But each time she picked herself up and tried again. Imagine the resilience she gained in the process!
• Failing makes us grow. When we shield our children from failure or put so much pressure on them that they avoid trying, we stunt their growth. When our children are allowed to fail, they gain understanding about life, who they are and how much they are capable of.
As parents, we have the power to create environments in our families where failing is human and temporary. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, let us raise children who, “if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”