At its core, failure is a lack of success. Whether we like it or not, it happens to everyone. Most toddlers fall down before learning to walk. Few pre-schoolers learn to tie their shoes on the first try. Not everyone has legible printing from the first time they pick up a pencil. We all struggle to stay in the lines when colouring from time to time.
Unfortunately, in a highly competitive world, failure is often treated with distain. We tend to hide our failures because we tend to link our value to our successes. The more success we have, the more we feel accomplished. Admitting failure, might rob our sense of self-worth.
Reclaiming failure as opportunity to learn
Still, we shouldn’t be afraid of failure. When we fail, we have an opportunity to learn. We might learn something about ourselves – including that perhaps there are things we are not so good at. We might develop persistence – a willingness to try, try again. Or we might simply learn that it is OK to let go and move on, we don’t have to be perfect at everything.
Everyone fails. It took Edison some 10,000 attempts to create a lightbulb. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was rejected 12 times and J.K. Rowling was told “not to quit her day job”. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, dropped out of college after 6 months because of the financial strain on his family. To fail is to be human. As a result, failure is on the curriculum at Smith College as highlighted here.
Helping children accept failure
There is comfort in numbers. When we are honest about our struggles especially with the next generation, they can then recognise that failure is not an end but can be an opportunity. What is really important in life? Will a single test, project, attempt at a sport or messy picture really destroy a person’s future? What can be said when we look back on the past in regards to those moments that really made a difference?
When we ask our children to simply try their best and accept that there are areas in which they may struggle, we free our children to explore who they are, to be who they are. This may mean that we discover our children don’t have the same abilities as we do. This may mean they pursue areas that feel foreign to us. This is OK. As long as they know they are loved and supported, they will have the courage and strength to accept failure as a stepping stone to real success.
Want to explore this topic more?
Our next Thrive! Dinner will be June 3rd at Essex United Church beginning at 5pm when we will be making quesadillas and eating together and then breaking off in groups for parents, teens, tweens and children as we explore Stress, Anxiety and Failure in playful and meaningful ways. All are welcome!
Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today. Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/