When we hear the word: “Fail”, we are usually “triggered” by the negative connotation of it. Failure is the mark of someone who is lazy, who is not happy and who did not live up to expectations.
But, is that really true?
Actually, failure can be simply a stepping stone. It can be a check mark against a set of values. It can be a comma in between the sentence of our journey to success.
When our children are young, they are completely immune to failure. Have you ever seen a toddler trying to walk? That toddler falls, cries and then get up to try again. There’s no thinking involved. The natural instinct is simply to recover after failure.
As children grow, they are much more aware of embarrassment, expectations, and comparison. In other words, they start to care about what others think of them and how they are perceived in the world.
The combination of these three: embarrassment, expectations, and comparison, often lead to “paralysis” after failure. During “paralysis”, children who have a higher self-concept will recover quickly to try again. However, children who are more sensitive, end up wallowing in this “paralysis” state for a long time.
As these children grow up to become parents, they will project the same embarrassment, expectations, and comparisons onto their own parenting skills. They become parents who need to be perfect. They become parents who have a hard time accepting failure.
What is the solution?
Parents and their children can start learning to fail together from the start. If parents are perfect, then children will start to expect themselves to be perfect too. If parents don’t model the process of dealing with failure, then children won’t understand that there’s a process that could help them deal with failure.
Now, let’s learn together.
Fail at something in front of your children.
Fail incredibly to the point of having your children laugh at you.
Then, laugh together.
Point out the fact that this task was not easy.
Ask your children what they would do in this situation.
Then, brainstorm together about the steps needed to recover from the failure.
Show your children the process of recovery!
After this exercise, set a line item on your calendar to repeat this process over and over again with different failures once every week, or once every month.
Eventually, your children will start to internalize the process. When you think they have, test them with an exercise. Set them up for failure by giving them a “difficult” task. Then, let them figure it out.
Watch them fail and see how they deal with their own failures in the process.
As parents who do not like to fail ourselves, when we see our children internalize the process, we will also be more motivated to take “expectation, embarrassment and comparison” out of our own failures. Instead of dealing with crippling perfectionism in our parenting, we will grow through our failures.
Now, “growth” – that’s something we can celebrate with our children.
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