Failure IS an option: Choosing Learning Moments and Reframing Failure

Jul 14, 2021

Do you cringe when you witness your kids' disappointment or embarrassment when they try something and it doesn't turn out as they had hoped? When they’re sad, disappointed or embarrassed, is your first instinct to help them feel better about it as soon as possible?

Take a minute to think back to some epic “fails” in your life, and consider the lessons you learned from them.  I’m guessing that your “fails” helped you become more resilient, and likely helped grow your confidence in your ability to overcome obstacles and setbacks.

As you think about failure, consider that it’s totally subjective and you get to decide.  For example, if your child is typically a straight A student but gets a C on an exam, you might consider it a failure for them.  But if your child was getting D’s and F’s and then got a C, it might be time to celebrate.  Either way, if your child worked hard, studied, and did their best, is that ever really a “failure”?

I will never forget an article that I read about Sara Blakely (founder of Spanx) where she tells the story of how her dad used to invite her and her brother to share their failures at the dinner table.  Instead of being disappointed, upset, or trying to “fix” things, he would celebrate their efforts.  According to Blakely, “Failure for me became not trying, versus the outcome.”  When things didn’t go her way or when she got embarrassed by a situation, her dad would encourage her to write down where the hidden gifts were and what she got out of it.  She said, “I started realizing that in everything there was some amazing nugget that I wouldn’t have wanted to pass up.”

It usually takes time and perspective to see the gifts when we “fail”, but what if we could help our children find them sooner?  Real personal growth typically doesn’t happen when things are easy, and we want our children to learn tenacity and resilience to continue to pursue their dreams even when things get tough and they run into obstacles.

Growing up learning how to take risks and see the real definition of failing as not trying helped Sara Blakely become one of the top self-made women in the world. In looking at anyone that has achieved a high level of success, they’d tell you that there were a whole bunch of “fails” along the way.  

According to Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that did not work.”  And Michael Jordan said “I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."  

As parents, one of the best things we can do is reframe failure for our kids, and help them understand that a failure is just one thing that they tried that didn’t work.  It doesn’t mean that THEY are a failure.  We can still appreciate their efforts, encourage them to keep trying, and talk about the gifts or lessons they are learning along the way.  

I recognize that it’s totally counterintuitive to want your kids to try to “fail”, but the more that you can get them comfortable with taking risks and trying multiple avenues, and the more you celebrate their efforts and help them recognize the gifts they learned in trying, the more resilient and tenacious they’ll become.

When we teach our children to redefine failure as “not trying” and look for the gifts in each experience, we give them tools that will directly impact their self-confidence, resilience, and levels of success for the rest of their lives.

This is part of my Counterintuitive Parenting Series for Mindful Parents.  These ideas may go completely against your natural instincts, but learning how to introduce your children to these concepts at a young age could change the trajectory of their lives. 

Find out more about my Mindful Parenting Program by hopping on a free call with me.  I help insecure parents stop wasting time second guessing themselves to become confident, effective parents that know what to do when their kids are struggling, so they can stay connected and have positive interactions with their kids. Go to melpeirce.com/consult to book a free call today!

You can also join the Mindful Parent Circle on Facebook, and sign up for my newsletter (melpeirce.com/signup) so you get notified of my free online workshops and events.  I hope to see you on the inside!

Join the Conscious Parenting Circle.

Join our mailing list to receive the latest tips and tools from the Conscious Parenting toolbox in your email..

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.