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Failure Lessons|12 August 2022

Failing lessons 101: how can you teach your child to convert their weaknesses into strengths?

Written by Dr. Mona Gujral
Dr.Mona Gujral is a certified parenting coach with a background in psychology. She is the author of the best selling book-'Raising a Mindful Parent', a speaker on Mindful Parenting, and comes with over 5 years of experience.

If there is one thing that the parents have absolutely no control over, it’s their children’s rendezvous with failure. Failure is a constant in everyone’s life and will walk by your side during different phases of life. The best parents can do for their children is to teach them how to find their learning from failures, how to convert their weaknesses into strengths, and how to turn failure into success.

Albert Einstein, the famous scientist who made the light bulb failed several times before he could make it the right way. He told everyone that he didn’t fail all those years, but instead, stumbled upon different ways how not to make a light bulb.

This is just one of the greatest examples of all time that teach us that nothing is impossible and that the key to the success lies in working towards converting our weaknesses into strengths.

Let us see how you as a parent can help your child develop a mindset where they are not defeated by their failures, but use them as an opportunity for growth.

1. Let them make mistakes

Think about toddlers, when they are trying to walk. They fall repeatedly, but they never give up once. It’s from this process of falling that they learn how to stand and walk.

Or how sometimes the only way children learn how to prepare properly for exams is by failing when they are not prepared well. This will teach some very important lessons on what to do and what not to do when preparing well for exams.

Key Takeaways: a) Challenges and failure are the only way to develop coping and problem-solving skills in children. If the parents do everything for their children and try to protect them from failing, these key brain functions might not develop in the child.

b) This is what failing and making mistakes do to your child. They teach them how to overcome their weaknesses and learn from failures. Other lessons may include – what they could have done better in order to be successful in a go.

So let them make mistakes and do not stand as a shield between their experiences and learnings. How much ever well-intentioned, if you do everything for your child, you are, in reality, making them incapable and weak.

2. Acknowledge their attempts

As a parent, it is important to acknowledge and praise the attempts of your children in completing certain tasks. Praising them for fighting throughout even when things were difficult or praising them for trying things that they’re not sure about completing successfully are some of the ways to reward them.  This will help them in developing their confidence in the right way.

The children will know the importance of being on the right path and reaching their goals. When you acknowledge their hard work and efforts, they become optimistic and feel good about themselves.

Disclaimer: Never give false praise. This will make them overconfident and will do more harm than good in the long run.

3. Develop an “I can do it” attitude

Develop an “I can do it” attitude in your child rather than the “I can’t do it” attitude. This is one very big difference between children who rise up, get rid of their failures, and learn from the obstacles in life.

This growth mindset teaches children how to change weaknesses into strengths rather than accepting their present circumstances as reality. This also teaches them that it’s ok to encounter failures in life and encourages them to try out new ideas and approaches to problem-solving. It teaches them to keep working on a difficult problem, not giving up even if there’s no sight of the solution. And most importantly it teaches them the mantra, ‘Failures help the brain to grow stronger and sharper.’

4. Make them resilient

Being resilient simply means that the children are able to recover from tough situations in life. These tough situations can be any kind of failure or challenge- especially for teenagers as they are gearing up to enter the adult world.

Teach your children to cope with the small failures they have in life rather than ignoring them. These small failures will help them in developing the “how do I make it better” attitude.

It is also important to develop self-regulating skills in children which will help them maintain a calm mindset when they fail. Staying calm is a power that will help them in finding ways how to overcome weaknesses and win over them.

Other key takeaways: Children should also be encouraged to have positive self-perceptions about themselves, that even if they fail at something, they are not a failure. Positive self-perceptions can be developed by acknowledging their efforts, helping them set short-term goals, and helping them learn from their failure.

5. Teach them the art of failing forward

Instead of teaching a child that failing is something horrible and bad, teach them how they can be comfortable with it. Shift their focus from the negative onto the positive aspects of failures.

Introduce the concept of ‘Failing Forward’. Failing Forward means learning from failure in life. So, every time your child makes a mistake, ask them “What did you learn from this?” or “How can you do something differently next time?”.

Thinking this way, the children will have immense learnings and experiences from their failures and it will change their relationship with failures forever.

6. Be a role model

If you want your children to grow and succeed, you have to teach them to overcome the fear of failure. What better way than to teach them from your own personal experiences?  Give them examples of your own failures and stories. When they see that today you are strong and successful after overcoming all those failures, they are bound to learn how to overcome their weaknesses, and how to be successful just like you, their parent.

It is always a good idea to tell them about the challenges you are facing which are age-appropriate for them. This teaches them that failure is an integral part of success.

7. Change their meaning of failure

There are some important things that parents should teach their children about failure. Teach them that failure does not mean that they are worthless. Teach them that failure does not mean the end of the road, but it is an opportunity to discover their own new road, and capabilities. Failure means overcoming weaknesses to develop them into your strengths.

It is very important how the parents talk about failure at home. If they see it as a negative thing, the children are going to learn to be scared of it. On the other hand, if the parents talk about it in a progressive manner, the children will learn to use it as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Failures that the children face are in fact great teachable moments. These are the moments where we can help our children overcome their weaknesses and manage small disappointments to achieve something much bigger and better in their lives ahead.

The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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