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Failure Lessons|18 August 2022

Why it’s more than okay for kids to fail?

Written by Jitin Chawla
Eminent career counsellor and a founder of Centre for Career Development with more than 21 years of experience in mentoring students accross the world.

Have you ever met someone who always had everything sorted with zero struggle?
Or read about someone who reached the pinnacle of success without tumbling?

It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default”
                                                                                             – J.K. Rowling

The desire to win is ubiquitous, nobody wants to face failure – be it in the world of sports or the educational domain where kids focus on grades and school laurels. To achieve success, people strive hard enough and do everything within their capacity. And yet, they may fall short. Not once, maybe twice or thrice.

Failure is a fundamental part of life. Kids and their parents need to perceive failures as a part of success and not as an antonym of it. Most people are not able to understand the depth of the phrase but yes, it’s okay to fail. Without experiencing failure, you might not become the person you aspire to be.

There is absolutely no denying that failure is a painful experience. Despite all the agony, doubts, uncertainty and queries accompanying it, failure comes with a silver lining. It teaches you valuable lessons which ultimately help you improve.

  •  Failure makes you stronger and resilient.
  • It makes you dig deeper and search for new ways of doing things.
  • It makes you humble and empathetic to the plight of others.
  • It teaches you lessons that can’t be earned from success.
  • It broadens your perspective and helps you to reach new understandings.
  • It acts as a great source of motivation.

So, if failure is an inevitable part of success and a step in the right direction then why does making errors top our Not-To-Do list? 

It’s because we tend to focus on the negative emotions that failure generates rather than extracting positives from it. Secondly, we bind our failures to our personal lack of ability. And, most importantly, kids are wary of critical reception from their surroundings, especially their parents.

Failure-to-success stories to take cues from

We all know Elon Musk as a billionaire entrepreneur and the co-founder of PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity etc. But before reaching the pinnacle of success he went through many lows and failures. He survived high school bullying, was removed as the CEO from his own company Zip2 and ousted from PayPal, the company he founded himself to later succeed and become the business magnet that he is at present.

Do you know Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, currently one of the world’s richest people is a Harvard dropout and his first entrepreneurial stint was a failure? 

Walt Disney, a creative genius of the 20th century was fired from a newspaper firm citing a lack of creativity and was forced to close his first ever animation company until finally, his films started to gain popularity. The list doesn’t end here, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Steve Jobs, and Einstein are some of the many other successful people who were able to attain success because of the lessons they learned from their previous failures.

In the era of globalised villages, people are coming forward and courageously sharing their mistakes and humbling experiences through interviews, podcasts, TED talks, blog writing, etc. Successful people are opening up about their struggle stories and how they ultimately helped them climb the ladder of success. This new norm is a progressive attempt to normalise failure, learn how it empowers experiential learning, shift in point of views, reshape priorities, present an opportunity to try again, increase empathy, build a strong personality and much more.

How can you become a positive catalyst in your child’s failure journey?

Every parent wants to see their kid succeed but it is equally essential to allow them the freedom to fail, telling them it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s imperative that parents let their kids know, not just verbally but also through their actions and behaviour that failing will happen at times and it’s totally okay. They play a pivotal role in teaching kids how to deal with failure by:

  • Assisting kids in recognising and reflecting on their mistakes.
  • Motivating them to keep pushing for their goals and passion. 
  • Providing them with the space where they discuss their worries openly.
  • Applauding the kid’s effort and process and not just the final result.
  • Sharing their own failure to success moments with kids

However, parents need to find a balance between helping their kids teach how to overcome failure and not being overprotective about them. Shielding kids from the failure-learning phase results in:

  • A fragile sense of self-worth
  • Dependent and constrained personality 
  • Non-resilient character traits
  • Diminished self-esteem
  • Getting distraught over a minor misstep

Parents have to remember that they are a facilitator in this entire process; they should take a step back and let the child stumble and learn to get up by themselves.

The truth is you can’t go through the cycle of life without failing at something. And understandably you are going to fail repeatedly. We often tend to highlight only the bright side of a successful person and overlook the years of struggle they had to endure; their will to never give up, to stand up and try again, time after time. Meanwhile, these are the years which yield the most inspiring and motivational stories.

Do not be afraid of failure, embrace it and see it as a means to the end i.e., success. Have the courage to examine your failures, find out where you went wrong and bounce back stronger after learning from your mistakes. After all, without failure, there is no sweetness in success. And you never know, it may open doors of opportunity you didn’t imagine before.

The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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