Updated: Jan 4, 2022
Those two words can cause embarrassment, anxiety, and even depression. Yet, these two words can also cause us to become more creative and confident.
Do you remember the first time you tried to ride a bike? Did someone run beside you as you furiously peddled, ready to catch you when you fell? And, you did fall. You probably fell several times. Skinned a knee...felt a little embarrassed...but you kept trying. What about that first piano lesson? Did you master Bach the first time you sat down in front of the keys? Of course, not. That is a ridiculous notion. Yet, many young people today are so afraid of failing that they refuse to even try, stunting their ability to be creative critical thinkers.
Psychologists have identified five reasons people fear failure:
Experiencing shame and embarrassment
Devaluing our self-worth
Having an uncertain future
Upsetting important others
Important others losing interest
Knowing that failure can be a frightening endeavor, it is vital that we simultaneously encourage failure and success. While this seems like a contradiction, the two work together. Therefore, how can we take away the negative stigma of failure so our kids learn to embrace it instead of fear it?
Much of the way we view failure comes from our mindset. Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. wrote a book titled, Mindset, the New Psychology of Success. In a 2016 interview for The Atlantic, she spoke about embracing setbacks,
“When students had more of a growth mindset, they held the view that talents and abilities could be developed and that challenges were the way to do it. Learning something new, something hard, sticking to things—that’s how you get smarter. Setbacks and feedback weren’t about your abilities, they were information you could use to help yourself learn. With a growth mindset, kids don’t necessarily think that there’s no such thing as talent or that everyone is the same, but they believe everyone can develop their abilities through hard work, strategies, and lots of help and mentoring from others.”
Think of this...
Does your child see taking an upcoming test as a way to monitor how much they have learned or a way to compare themselves to their peers? With a growth mindset, facing challenges - like a grueling test - will be viewed as valuable feedback rather than something to fear. .
The question remains - how do we instill confidence and creativity through failure?
Give yourself permission to fail as a parent, educator, adult. Young people watch what we do. They learn from us.
If we embrace failure for what it can help us accomplish - then our youth will learn that failure is a normal and acceptable occurrence.
Let your kids see you try something new - make a challenging new recipe, create a piece of art, hike a difficult terrain. Give them a chance to see you fail and recover.
Kids love to try new things: to experiment, to create, to learn. Often, they just need a little encouragement. Because one of the primary fears surrounding failure is disappointing important people in their lives, children need permission to fail.
They need to know that not only is it OK to fail - but even encouraged. It's hard to watch as they fall off their bikes. It’s difficult to stand by knowing we can step in and save them from that skinned knee. This process can get messy and may feel uncomfortable. But, encouraging our kids to try new things - despite the risk of failure - will strengthen them, make them more resilient, and in the end more successful.
Help your child create a goal. It could be anything from reaching a new level in a video game, to eating healthy, to getting straight A’s. Then help them create a plan to achieve that goal. Track their progress helping them celebrate their failures and their successes.
Should you celebrate failure?
Yes! Celebrate all the steps along the way. Not just the outcome. Notice and praise the effort, the persistence, the critical thinking. Your child will appreciate that you noticed the little steps along the way. A simple high-five or appreciative note goes a long way.
At Curiosity 2 Create, we recognize that creativity, critical thinking, and curiosity are strengthened when we embrace and learn from our failures, instead of fearing them. To learn more about Curiosity 2 Create and our programs designed to cultivate lifelong creative problem solvers, check out our website and social media outlets.
There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho