A young boy is frustrated. Learning how to help your children cope with failure will provide them with the tools they need to succeed.

Helping kids with failure has a lot to do with how we react to it as parents. What we say to our kids when they fail can make a big difference in how they perceive their experience and their willingness to take risks in the future. When you know how to comfort your kids when they fail, you’ll be better equipped to address their big feelings surrounding it.

It Starts With YOU

The connection between parents’ expectations and how children deal with failure is significant and can have a profound impact on a child’s response to setbacks. Here’s why:

Children often internalize the expectations set by their parents. When we set unreasonably high expectations regarding academic performance, sports achievements, or other areas, our children may internalize these expectations as their own. Because of this, failure to meet those expectations can be deeply distressing.

Failure tied to self worth

Remember, children often have a strong desire to please their parents and make them proud. When they experience failure, there is a fear of not measuring up, which can impact your child’s self-esteem and self-worth. If your child perceives that their value and acceptance from you is contingent upon their achievements, they may develop anxiety around failure.

Do a self evaluation

How we respond to our child’s failure plays a crucial role in shaping their ability to cope with disappointment. If we react to our children’s failures with anger, criticism, or disapproval, it can exacerbate our kids negative emotions surrounding failure. On the other hand, as we are supportive and understanding, we can promote a growth mindset.

Be the safe place

Making sure you are a safe place for your children to fail will make it easier for your child to thrive despite setbacks. Here are a few things your can do:

Cultivate Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication with your child, but remember not to force it! Let them know that they can talk to you about their challenges, failures, and emotions without fear of judgment or criticism.

Set Realistic Expectations: Establish realistic expectations that focus on effort, personal growth, and learning rather than relying on outcomes or achievements. We live in a world that is often hyper focused on competition, putting all the focus on winning can be detrimental for kids.

Be Empathetic and Understanding: Be sensitive to what your child is feeling instead of telling them to “suck it up”. Show empathy towards your child’s experiences. Avoid belittling or dismissing their failures. Allow them to express their feelings and then help them to process them in a healthy way.

A mother holds her son. Helping kids with failure will build their confidence and resiliency.

How to help your child fail successfully

Yes, there is such a thing as failing successfully, and you can help your child do it! Failing successfully involves reframing failure as a valuable opportunity for development rather than as a final defeat. Here’s how to set your child up for successful failure.

Encourage Healthy Risk-Taking: Provide opportunities for your child to take calculated risks. This can involve engaging in new activities, pursuing challenging goals, or trying unfamiliar experiences. By encouraging healthy risk-taking, you help your child develop resilience and a willingness to step outside their comfort zone.

Emphasize the Process, Not Just the Outcome: Encourage your child to focus on the process rather than solely on the outcome. Help them understand that success is not solely determined by the end result but also by the effort, growth, and learning that occurs along the way. For example, your child could try and miss 20 shots in a basketball game, but has still succeded in practicing and working on their aim.

Teach Coping Strategies: Equip your child with healthy coping strategies to manage the emotional impact of failure. Some of these techniques include deep breathing, positive self-talk, and mindfulness. Encourage them to seek support from trusted individuals.

How you can comfort your child when they fail

Listen

Listening is crucial because it will help you understand your child’s perspective. Each child’s experience of failure is unique. By actively listening, you gain insight into their experience, thoughts, and reactions. As you gain a better understanding of how your child is feeling, you will be able to meet their specific needs and concerns.

Validate

Validating your child’s feelings communicates that their emotions are normal and accepted. It creates a safe space for them to express their thoughts. As your child learns to recognize and articulate their emotions, they will have more self awareness and the ability to regulate when they are upset.

Provide Perspective

Providing perspective to kids who have failed at something is an important way to help them navigate their experience. Offering perspective is valuable because it can shift their mindset from viewing an entire experience as negative, to finding positive moments and valuable lessons learned.

Share your experience

When appropriate, sharing some of your own experiences with failure can be another great way to normalize what your child is going through. Talk to your child about how you felt, and what you have done in the past to move forward when faced with challenging situtations.

Final thoughts

As we teach our children that failure is not an end destination, but a temporary rest stop, they’ll feel more confident taking risks and trying new things. You can set your child up for successful failure that leads to amazing accomplishments in the future.

Parents play a crucial role in supporting children through failure. By validating our children’s feelings, actively listening, and providing perspective, we can create a safe and nurturing environment for our kids to navigate setbacks and learn from their experiences. As we help them to redefine success, we will empower our children with the skills to overcome challenges.

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