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Kids Need to Learn How to Fail to Ultimately Succeed

How too much parental praise and enthusiasm may be holding children back.

The truth is, not everyone is going to be excellent at everything they do. Most people won’t have an aptitude for all the things they attempt. Every child will not grow up to be the most coordinated/perceptive/insightful and emotionally stable person in the room. This means when adults praise everything a child does, we give them the impression that they will be terrific and competent in every area of their lives.


While this may help children grow up feeling good about themselves, it also leaves them vulnerable to a rude awakening when they are outside of their families and the world doesn’t show them the same level of approval. While earned praise is great, praise that’s given just for showing up tends to give children a sense of false confidence. This means there may be a bitter pill to swallow when they have to compete in the real world and they find that things don’t always turn out the way they want.


One of the benefits of failing at something is that you learn how to dust yourself off, get up, and continue to try and achieve your goal. When all you’ve been told is that you’re terrific at everything you do, and anything you struggle with is potentially the fault of a bad teacher, or an off day, then you grow up feeling that you are entitled to success. The problem is that it’s a long way down when you are at the emotional height of believing you will never fail.


Part of the human experience is learning from the things that challenge us. If we are to truly succeed at the important things in our lives, such as careers and relationships, we have to experience at an early age what it feels like to fail. We have to know that initial failure is not the end of the journey. Failure at an early stage of our efforts can teach us important lessons that ultimately lead to incredible success.


For example, let’s look at the Beatles. I presume you’ve heard of them. The Beatles who are one of, if not, the most influential and successful musical groups of all time were turned down by every major record label in England. It would have been easy for them to determine that they weren’t good enough to make it in the music industry. What they had going for them besides their incredible musical talent was they believed in themselves. Even with the disappointment of not making it right away, they kept going! They understood that you couldn’t eventually have success if you let setbacks stop you.


When children are praised for everything they do and shielded from disappointments and unsuccessful efforts, we hinder their ability to understand determination. By failing, they are learning lessons that can ultimately lead to success. It is in the failures that children learn a wide variety of important lessons. They learn humility, that it takes work to develop expertise. They also learn the importance of focus; that just because they didn’t succeed today, doesn’t mean they can’t succeed tomorrow.


It is important in a child’s development that they are not denied the ability to face setbacks and sometimes have to struggle to succeed. If tennis players only played people who were worse than they were so they could win all the time, they wouldn’t need to get any better. When it comes to a child’s development, it is the challenges they face and the mental focus they develop which helps to form their determination to succeed. It also helps to prepare children for the type of situations they’re going to face in the real world.


The next time a child is struggling with something, instead of praising them and telling them how great they are, help them understand that sometimes it takes effort and time to succeed. Help them develop the patience to stick with something, even if it’s difficult, so it won’t stop them from achieving their goals. If the odds are against achieving success, let them know that even if they have to struggle, their efforts will either lead to their eventual success, or perhaps help them figure out a new path that can be just as rewarding. While success is never guaranteed, children who learn the importance of continuing to try often have the best chance of achieving it.