My children are both at school now and are each becoming more independent on an almost daily basis. This is great! It shows they have not only the confidence to make their own decisions, but some confidence that these decisions are the right ones.
Of course, there are times when they do get it wrong, they make mistakes or something doesn't turn out how they, or I expected. But that's ok. I do my best to praise them on their efforts rather than focus on their failure. In this way, I encourage them to try again but to do something differently that will hopefully change the outcome.
Stepping back as a parent and watching my children fall or fail is, I think, one of the hardest things I have to contend with. I'm not always able to do it but I try hard to. Why? Because without failure there is no learning, no growth and no success.
Failure is part of learning
So, what I'm trying to do is to show my kids that failure - be it in a physical or mental activity - isn't an end result. It's just all part of learning - both about a specific thing and also about ourselves - and it should encourage us to try again. Before making those next attempts, it's almost always necessary to make one, two or three changes to the way we do a thing in order to achieve the result we want.
Yes it can be time-consuming and often requires a lot of emotional support "you can do it, I know you can, you just need to try again or maybe think about which part didn't really help?". It is also really worrying at times, particularly when it's a physical or sporting endeavour that involves risk. But, we push on through because I think it's important for my children, and all children, to understand they can learn from their failures, move on and do something or be better the next time.
What have you failed at recently?
I'm not alone in my view. Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx (come on mums, you know what I'm talking about, we all we all bought some after the birth of our first-born!) often tells the story of her dinnertime chats with her dad. Everyday when he sat down to dinner with his children, Sara's dad would ask "so, what did you fail at today?" If his children didn't have any failures to report he was disappointed!
In an interview with CNN Sara told the interviewer "What he did was redefine failure for my brother and me. And instead of failure being the outcome, failure became not trying. And it forced me at a young age to want to push myself so much further out of my comfort zone."
The inventor of Spanx isn't the only success story who sees value in failure. Richard Branson, Innocent drinks founder Richard Reed, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford all experienced failures before finally finding the right idea or the right way for them to go about something and hitting it big! Indeed, Thomas Edison famously made around 10,000 attempts before finally inventing an electric light-bulb that worked. when asked about his numerous failures he said he knew "definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work."!
Failure on a small scale
Of course, I'm not embracing failure and trying again because I want or think my children are the next big entrepreneurs. I mean, they could be. But more because I think it, failure, is an important lesson for lots of reasons; it helps with teaching resilience and how not to give up - both great attributes for children and adults to have. Also, they often make for great stories and anecdotes too!
An example of how I have praised failure and encouraged further attempts from my children is in the playground. There are many physical challenges there as well as some that require thought too, such as the high rope climbing constructions. I only ever had to climb up to retrieve my daughter from the top once and I was very pleased with myself for telling her how great it was that she'd made it to the top herself, next time she just had to work out the best way to get back down by herself. She gained confidence from the fact that she climbed up to the top and the second time she made it up there, she was happy to try the downward trip herself, which she made unscathed and she was VERY proud of her achievement - as was I.
This is a small thing to some people, and eventually will be to us, but it's a step that any parent and child can take in order to understand the benefits of failing at something. Failure really is a great way of pushing ourselves, learning how to analyse something and not to give up because the satisfaction and pride you feel when you do finally succeed at something, is pretty fantastic!
When Laura isn't willing her kids to fail, she's writing on raising healthy, happy kids at www.poshtiger.co. You can even find her favourite healthy party food recipes there.
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