The Power of Failure

BY Nicole Smith

As I sit here and think back to my days as a child in the late 80’s and early 90’s what sticks out in my mind the most is failure. Whether it was in school, sports, or relationships I distinctly remember moments in my life when I did not succeed and I remember my parents giving me some “tough love” during those times. Although I am not a parent yet I have been an elementary school teacher for ten years.  What I am starting to see is that children are afraid to fail, so much so that it causes extreme anxiety and an inability to overcome a minor setback. We are trying to change our students’ way of thinking by teaching them about the power of having a growth mindset, realizing yes it is okay to fail! Here are four ways we can set our kids up for success while letting them fail at the same time.

Four Ways to Fail at Ease


I cannot stress how important it is to have your child build their own independence. In the classroom we teach students the importance of responsibility on a daily basis. This can be responsibility for ones belongings or of ones actions. The goal is to try to teach students the skills they need to accomplish something rather than doing it for them. Even if it is as simple as students getting materials needed for an assignment in school, or having your child carry their sippy cup to the kitchen when they are done. This type of guidance instills responsibility from the beginning, setting the tone that you are there to teach not do. When challenges arise you are there as a support. Children have to go through these small failure in order to learn how to bounce back!

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

As humans in today’s society everything seems to be instantaneous. We expect to pick something up and get it right the first time. Unfortunately we are living in an impatient world and our kids are as well. As an educator I see many students become extremely overwhelmed and often shut down when they do not learn something right away. What we are trying to teach our children in the school setting is that our intelligence isn’t fixed and can change depending upon the effort we put forth, growing stronger or weaker based on the amount of effort applied. Having a growth mindset is believing you are a lifelong learner, meaning you can change, evolve, and constantly learn new skills. It means understanding growth of an academic skill or talent takes time and perseverance. Having this type of mindset will help children move forward when they encounter setbacks in life. The mind is a very powerful tool, by changing our way of thinking we can help eliminate stress and tackle the disappointment head on, ultimately achieving success!

Viewing Failure as a Positive

As odd as it may sound try to find the positive in your child’s failure. When I am working with a student who has received a disappointing grade on a test we always discuss why we think this happened, what we can do about it in the present, and how we can improve for the future. We never dwell on the grade or harp on the situation but learn from the mistakes and try to improve through hard work. Approaching each failure with a positive attitude is key and can be a contributing factor in a child’s mindset. Instead of focusing on the grade or the score of the game, try to focus on the effort put forth.

Support your Child

Support your child…without setting them up for failure. How do we do that? It can be very difficult and a line that we teeter across. From a teacher perspective my best advice would be to let your child try to figure it out on their own, giving support when needed. As they improve slowly begin to pull back. I also think at times kids just need to figure it out for themselves as hard as it may be. Ask yourself, are the consequences permanent? Will they be life threatening? If not, try to step back and let your child figure it out their own way in their own time.

Watching a child fail is never easy and watching your own child struggle can be unbearable. When dealing with this try to think of the big picture and how this will help them in the long run. We are always evolving and trying to better ourselves. You are not a fixed parent and can continue to grow with your child. Our mistakes along the way can lead us to our greatest achievements in life!

Great two minute video parents and children can watch

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The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.