Teach our Kids to Fail

We all want to raise confident and creative kids who fearlessly pursue their ideas, right? What’s the best way to accomplish this? Help them get comfortable with and learn from their failures.

In last week’s post I talked about helping your child to create a plan before diving into a project. This week is about the most challenging step in the creative process: taking action and doing the creative work to see an idea through- which often means dealing with the possibility of failure.

Image from http://pearsonlabs.tumblr.com/


People react to the word “failure” in different ways. For some, it’s shameful and embarrassing – they don’t like to talk about it. For others, failure is viewed as a valuable learning experience: Through failure, they know what they would do differently next time and they can appreciate the process even if the end goal wasn’t what they hoped for.

Art is the perfect medium to teach our kids from an early age how to embrace failure. When I talk about failure I simply mean an undesired outcome. It doesn’t need to be charged with anything more than that— although it certainly can feel devastating when we label an experience as a ‘failure’. While we as parents will wholeheartedly believe our kids art is nothing less than wonderful, our kids, especially around the age of 8, begin to have opinions about what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in art and can be very self-critical if what they create does not come out the way they wanted it to.

In art and in life, if kids do not have the tools to work through their self-proclaimed ‘failure’ they tend to give up completely, without experiencing the reward of finding a solution. So how do we help our kids embrace failure? Here are some things you can do:

  1. Listen with compassion.
    When a child is upset, it’s often our tendency to talk them out of it. Instead, let them know that it’s okay to cry and get their feelings out. When they begin to calm down, ask them to take a few deep breaths and then encourage them to express what they are not happy with. Take a short break if needed and then come back and begin problem solving when they are in a calm state. No problems can be solved when emotions are running high.
  2. Help to identify the specific issue.
    Sometimes feelings of frustration can be so overwhelming that the problem seems much bigger than it is. Often it takes just a small adjustment to get back on track. This approach allows our kids to build problem-solving skills and independence.
  3. Look for the ‘silver lining’.
    If things don’t turn out as planned, explore what was learned. Having a ‘glass half full’ attitude can go along way towards learning from failure.

Failure can be really uncomfortable, and the fear of it is often a deterrent to going after our dreams. If we can help our kids view it as an interesting bump in the road rather than a devastating event, they may be empowered to tackle anything they set their mind to.

(Image from pearsonlabs.tumblr.com)

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