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Inside: Discover 5 ways to help kids overcome the fear of failure and encourage them to develop a growth mindset that will allow them to face challenges easier.
My son loved soccer. He used to go out almost every day with his dad to a small field near our home to play soccer with some kids he met there.
He was really good at it and this made him very proud! His enthusiasm made us look for a soccer school that he could attend and a few weeks later he was going to his first practice with a big smile on his face.
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At the end of the first practice, they had their first game against another team. That team was more experienced and my son was also the youngest on the field so he quickly realized that things were a lot harder than he expected.
He did his best, but I could see the disappointment on his face. The match ended with no goals for my son’s team.
That evening he came to me and told me that he couldn’t play soccer anymore.
I asked why. He said that the other boys were so good that they will always win and he will always lose.
As the conversation went on I could clearly see how the fear of failure was affecting him. I could easily recognize it because I struggled with it during my whole childhood. And I knew that I didn’t want the same thing to happen to my son!
One of the main reasons why I wanted to encourage my son to develop a growth mindset was to offer him the tools to help him face challenges and failures easier.
All the growth mindset activities we did in the last months had a great impact on him! He became more determined to try new things and to not give up when things get hard.
But dealing with failure in an area that he was so passionate about was something that he wasn’t ready for.
How to help kids deal with the fear of failure
In the days after that conversation, I tried to find ways to help him deal with his fear of failure. I knew some very helpful resources on this topic and they were a great start!
I printed the Famous Failures Kit, and we talked about each of the stories of the famous people who dealt with failures on their way to success. The stories were the perfect starting point for more conversations on this topic.
I also shared stories from my own childhood when I failed at something, or I needed to face my fear of failure. My son seemed very relieved to hear these stories.
After these conversations, I decided to research some proven strategies to help me teach him how to overcome his fear of failure. I’m sure that this will be very important for his future, as he will need this skill to be able to overcome the challenges he will face in his school years.
I’ve gathered here the most helpful tips that I’ve found. I hope that they will inspire you too in case your kids will deal with the fear of failure at some point.
1. Talk about failures and mistakes in a positive way.
The kids who are told that failures and mistakes are normal are less afraid to try new things and more determined to keep going when things get hard.
Here are some great resources for talking to kids about failures and mistakes:
Famous Failures Kit -a small collection of stories of famous people who have failed before becoming successful that is perfect for helping kids overcome the fear of failure
Mistakes That Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions & How They Came to Be – a nice book for older kids that talks about mistakes that turned out to become great inventions
Beautiful Oops! – a lovely book about mistakes that offers a precious lesson for kids
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes – a great book about perfectionism that teaches kids that it’s okay to mess things up sometimes.
Also, admitting your own mistakes and talking honestly about your own failures are great ways to help your kids overcome their fear of failure.
Another way to help your kids deal with the fear of failure is to encourage them to talk about their fear. Letting them know that their feelings are normal and acknowledging them will help them relax and will reduce their anxiety.
2. Try this easy but effective exercise.
Ask your child what is the worst thing that can happen in case they fail at that specific thing they are concerned about.
Talking about the worst case scenario will help diminish the child’s fear. Also, help your child come up with different strategies that can help them in case they face failure.
Also, Rachel from A Mother Far From Home suggests this very helpful phrase that can help kids overcome their fear of failure. I tried it with my son in some situations, and it worked great!
3. Focus on the effort the child puts into an activity and not on the outcome.
Sometimes the children’s fear of failure comes from the desire not to disappoint their parents. Without realizing we can put additional pressure on our kids by using praise in a wrong way.
Constantly praising your child’s accomplishments can easily backfire because it makes them think that you always expect great outcomes from them. This can even make them avoid trying new things because they are afraid not to disappoint you.
A way to prevent this is to focus on the effort instead of the accomplishment. Instead of praising the child for a good grade, praise the effort they put into getting that grade. Instead of praising the child for their sporting achievements, praise the hard work they put into practicing and the great teamwork they showed.
These might seem small changes, but they can make a big difference!
4. Don’t try to “rescue” your child from all disappointments and failures.
As parents, we might be tempted to “rescue” our kids from all the negative experience they might face. But protecting your child from all failures or disappointments can do more harm than good.
Failure is a normal part of life, and kids need to experience it to be able to learn how to deal with it. Instead of “rescuing” the child from failure offer your support to help them deal with it.
5. Be a good role model and be aware of the expectations you set for your child.
I learned the hard way how important being a good role model is. While I always did my best not to put pressure on my son and let him know that mistakes are normal, I struggled with perfectionism when it came to my own life. My son noticed this and my actions weighted in more than my words.
I realized that the only way to really teach him to be gentle on himself when it comes to failures and mistakes is to do the same for me. Letting go of perfectionism is not only important for my well-being, but it’s also important for my son.
Stanford University researchers Carol Dweck and Kyla Haimovitz have found that children’s attitude about failure is directly impacted by their parents’ attitude about failure.
Also, the children’s attitude towards failure can be impacted by the expectations that the parents set for them. Putting constant pressure on kids by setting high expectation can raise the level the anxiety the children feel about failure.
The most effective way to prevent this is to show unconditional love to your child. Make sure that your child knows you don’t expect them to be perfect. Let them know that your love will never change no matter what mistakes the child makes.
This will increase your child’s feelings of self-worth and make them more capable of facing failures and disappointments.
A week after my son’s first soccer practice, in the evening before the next practice, I asked my son what he feels about playing soccer again. He smiled and told me that he can’t wait to have another practice!
All the conversations we had about failure had a positive impact on him. And I was so happy to see them excited about soccer again!
I hope that these tips will help you offer the support your children need when dealing with the fear of failure! Your support can make a huge difference for your kids , nd it can impact the way they deal with challenges for the rest of their lives!
More resources for helping kids develop a growth mindset
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