10 Things I Want My Kids to Know About Failure

One of the reasons that I chose to homeschool my kids is indeed a very selfish one: wanted to be the one who was there to witness those “ah-ha” moments where something my children are learning suddenly clicks into place.  wanted to see their beaming little faces and share in the pride and joy emanating from their little souls.

I also wanted to be the one who was there when things weren’t clicking.  Wanting to witness those “ah-ha” moments was indeed all about me, but wanting to be there in the hours, days, weeks, months, or even years before that light turned on is a protective instinct.  You see, I view struggle, frustration, questions, and yes even failure, a particular way – and I want my kids shaped by how I view those things rather than being crushed by the way they’re typically viewed in institutional education.

In no particular order, 10 things I want my kids to internalize about struggle and failure:

Temporary failure is a part of life.  It happens.  Get over it.

Even if I was inclined to protect you from failure (which, by the way, I am not), I could not.  You aren’t going to be able to everything the first time you try.  Expect it.  Don’t overreact to it.  You need a strong spirit of resiliency.

Some things are worth failing time and time again in your quest to attain or master.

I can’t tell you what those things will be in your life.  You’ll know deep in your gut, though, what is worth your blood, sweat, and tears.  When you know, be tenacious.  The payoff will be incredible.

Failure is not reflective of your value as a human being.

You are not “what you do”.  I don’t love you more if you succeed or perform well.  Failure doesn’t make you stupid or worthless.  It marks your journey along a path of discovery.

Failure is only permanent if you stop thinking and trying.

Did you learn something from an incident of failure?  Don’t tell me you didn’t.  Go back and examine the circumstances again, and find that nugget of wisdom.  Then reevaluate your means or your methods and take that nugget with you on your next attempt.

It’s crazy to keep doing the same thing (that isn’t working) and expect different results.

See the above!  Reevaluate your means or your methods.  Figure out where you went wrong last time and make an adjustment.  

You will appreciate more that which you must work to earn.

How many times do you think, “Oh, it’s nothing” when someone tells you how incredible something that comes naturally and easily to you is?  How much do you actually appreciate that something?  Now, what if someone says, “That’s incredible!” about something you’ve worked your ass off for?  You’re not saying, “Oh, it’s nothing.”  You know it’s not nothing.

It’s okay to take a break.

Sometimes the cycle of frustration and failure will just overwhelm you.  In that moment, give yourself permission to set it aside for as long as it takes before you’re ready to face it again.  Maybe you need more information or better skills before you can best what’s in front of you.  Use that break to fill in those gaps.  Maybe you just need more time to grow and mature before you’re ready to tackle what’s in front of you.  Go do something else for a while.  Maybe you need a fresh perspective.  Turn it over to your subconscious or maybe a trusted confidante.

It’s okay to ask for help.

No one succeeds entirely on their own.  What do people who want to be an elite athlete do?  They hire the best coaches they can find, and they listen to their guidance.  What do people who want to be successful entrepreneurs do?  They find a mentor in someone who has done it themselves.  And so on.  The point is that the only place where getting help or collaborating with other people appears to be cheating is in school.

Maximize your strengths, and either mitigate, accommodate, or delegate your weaknesses.

This is just basic advice that is ubiquitous amongst entrepreneurs, investors, and folks interested in self-improvement.  No successful adult does what they hate doing without a compelling reason for doing so if they can avoid it.  In order to be successful, you must focus on what you love and do very well.  The rest?  To mitigate it means that you employ coping strategies to temper the effects of your weaknesses on what you’re trying to accomplish.  To accommodate it means to use technology or some other form of assistance to neutralize the effects of your weaknesses on what you’re trying to accomplish.  To delegate it means to either hire someone else to do it, beg someone else to do it, or assign someone else to do it.

Behind every success is a lot of failure.

Contrary to what you will see in the movies, there is no such thing as an overnight sensation.  Those supposed overnight sensations have paid their dues over and over again, so often that they were ready to explode onto the scene when they hit the tipping point (find a synonym).  Paying their dues includes failure, maximizing strengths, mitigating weaknesses, accommodating weaknesses, delegating weaknesses, asking for help, taking a break, and plain hard work.

About the Author Becky

I’m a married, homeschooling mama of three who is passionate about self-directed learning.

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