In Indian households, we often see parents disciplining children by scolding them for making mistakes or failing. This is discouraging and sets the precedent that mistakes are something to be ashamed of.
When you’re learning to ride a bike. Do you tell your child never to ride a bike again just because he/she fell off a certain number of times? Nope! We put a big smile on our face, wipe their tears, put a band-aid on the bruise and encourage them to try again. Right? Then why do we demonize failure when our children fail at something in school ? Why can’t we not have the same mindset as riding a bike – for all skills? Riding a bike is like living a life. You will fall but you get up, brush yourself off, and start again.
When I was young, there was this one thing my dad always asked. It didn’t make sense back then, but as I grew up, I’ve understood it. He wasn’t a typical Indian father who just wanted to know my grades. He wanted me to read. He’d buy me second hand books by the dozen every month – but if I’d ask for a new dress he’d talk about it being out-of-budget. Every day at dinner, he’d ask if I made any mistakes worth celebrating the day, and I’d often roll my eyes. Little did I know that he was teaching me the biggest lesson of my life! His question made me learn to accept failure, not as something to hide or be ashamed of, but as an important milestone in the journey of life.
Here are 6 ways to teach your child to accept FAILURE as their FRIEND:
1. Befriend failure
Edison famously said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just discovered 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
That’s the attitude of a creative, confident problem solver! Talk to your children. Teach them to try new things no matter what. Instill in them that they will fail when they try something new but that should never be the reason they give up. Teach them to look at failure as a challenge and not shy away from it.
2. Failure is a learning opportunity
Failures are a necessary part of success. Let kids know that mistakes are made and that they are common and wonderful opportunities for learning. Give them constructive feedback. You don’t just have to keep praising them. But, build their confidence by also praising the things they’re doing right, while correcting or suggesting different ways to approach a problem.
Teach them to learn from their mistakes, try again and make new mistakes. That is the way to grow even if you fail.
3. Never be afraid of trying
Try everything. No one can be good at everything. But your child will not be able to find what they are good at unless they try their hand at different things. Fear of failure should never stop them from trying something new.
4. It’s OK not to succeed!
No one can be the BEST at everything! Sometimes, parents have unreasonable expectations of their children to come first or give up! If your kids enjoy a particular activity, it’s ok if they keep at it even if they don’t excel at it! I remember my son loved chess – but rarely won any competitions. A part of me wanted him to stop and pick up some other activity that he was good at. But, today, I’m so glad he insisted on sticking to chess – not because he’s great at it even now – but because as a college student, it’s a great stress buster for him!
5. Don’t demonize failure
The biggest mistake Indian parents make is shaming their children for failing. Mistakes do not mean your child will be unsuccessful in life. Punishing them won’t make the problem go away. It will just scare them into not trying again or they’ll learn to hide or lie about their mistakes. Punishing children for their mistakes shakes their confidence.
Parents are not perfect either, you make mistakes too, right? Then why expect your child to be perfect? Ask what you can do to help. Support them in their decision to keep trying. And, remember, it’s also ok if they decide to walk away and try something else.
6. Encourage them to try different activities
Children may occasionally be reluctant to try new things because they worry about the emotions that come with failure. Teach your child that they will stagnate in their comfort zone.
To determine what they enjoy and are good at, kids must experiment with new pastimes. That would not eliminate their fear of failing, but it might lessen it. Children must be taught that they don’t have to excel, or come first. They need to make an effort to grow and learn, and most importantly, to have fun.
What is a Growth Mindset?
Children that have a Growth Mindset (a term coined by author Carol Dweck in her book “Mindset”) will enjoy the true benefits of school. Attending school shows kids what they know, and what they need to learn without making not knowing a crime! Students learn that every learning is a process. You go into a new grade knowing nothing and get out of it at the end of the year knowing so many new skills and facts! They learn to use all available tools to develop what they need to improve rather than show off their skills in areas where they are already great. A child with a fixed mindset is stuck at just wanting to do what they’re good at. While one who has developed a growth mindset, knows that one gets better at skills with practice, and is willing to put in that extra effort.
As important as grades are in measuring learning, it is also important to pay attention to milestones that cannot be quantified by marks, such as time management, prioritization, teamwork, and others. A child will succeed both academically and personally by establishing this kind of thinking.
How we showcase our moods, attitude and disposition toward life is what determines our mindset. This mindset will help you see that every failure or misstep is a learning curve, making failure your best teacher. Your child will start looking at challenges as an adventurous opportunity to grow. The more your kid feels this way, the more resilient he/she will become.
Tips on how you can embrace a GROWTH MINDSET
Believe that there is no such thing as perfection.
Add the word ‘yet’ to your vocabulary and it will keep you in the game.
Hard work will see success so do not shy away from it.
As Indian parents, we need to stop caring about what society thinks when our child fails. And we need to teach that to our children. People do not enjoy anything more than pulling others down. Do not obsess about their academic scores. Success is not determined by how well your child did in school. Celebrate the 95 marks your child scored instead of nagging them about the 5 marks they lost.
Because of our upbringing, we Indians are so afraid to be wrong that we rarely speak up in a corporate set up. A childhood spent in worrying about being wrong, hinders our growth in adulthood as well. We miss out on good opportunities. Think about it – would there be innovation if everyone was afraid of trying? If you do not take a chance, you will always be stuck in just enough and never give yourself the opportunity to achieve greatness.
So let’s stop conditioning our children to never make mistakes. Encourage them to make mistakes and ask them what did they learn from them? And what would they do to change the outcome next time?
Deepma is a co-founder and trainer at The Confident Communicator, and is having the time of her life empowering children, teenagers, women, corporate executives, friends and family live their best life. She helps people become effective in the art and science of communication, build their self esteem, and conquer their deepest fears. She conducts training programs in Communication Skills, Leadership and Assertiveness for young adults and corporates, and has co-developed several products in line with the Company’s mission of Empowerment.
"Our kids are grappling with the pressures of social media, stalking and seeking instant gratification, and it is our duty to help them rise above these influences and empower them to build positive self worth, and resilience."