Written by: Melissa Pinn, LMFT
With the Olympics in full swing we have an opportunity to watch so many amazing athletes compete. It's hard to believe that these athletes we're not always at the top of their game,. It would be easy to think that they were born being a master of their sport. It took years of hard work, practice, and many failures for them to have gotten to where they are now; competing in the Olympics. When watching amazing athletes compete children don't see the blood, sweat, and tears that it may have taken for these athletes to get to the Olympics.
I receive many questions from parents asking for help with their kids who are afraid of failing. They only want to engage in things that they know that they can succeed at. Many of these children are afraid of trying due to the fear that they may fail. Failure is such an uncomfortable and intense emotion, it is so much easier to avoid trying when we know failure could be an option. We can help our kids get better at failing by supporting their failures. Here are a few ways to help them fail better:
1. Change Your Thoughts About Failing
Parents are their child's biggest role model. Children are always observing how their parent's respond to the challenges they are faced with and the mistakes they make.
Be mindful when you are faced with a challenge. Do you " freeze" or do you respond with positive self talk to help get through that challenge.
When you make mistakes are you critical of yourself or do you respond with positivity or humor? Talk to your child every night about what mistakes you have made and what you’ve learned from your mistakes. Encourage your child to share their biggest mistake from the day and the learning wisdom they can take away from that mistake.
2.Focus on Effort, Not Ability
Emphasize effort or the process rather than ability or the end product. Every child has different abilities, those abilities are not static. Our abilities change over time, with practice and hard work we can create a strength for what was once a weakness. The focus should not be about getting the trophy or the A+ because of your child's abilities. Rather, highlight the effort, practice, learning strategies, and determination it took to get that A+. This is the essence of grit. Grit is needed to help your child to be able to bounce back, ready to face the next challenge.
3.Conduct the “Worst-Case Scenario” Exercise
Children can be terrified of trying new things. The thought of possibly failing can prevent a child from wanting to try, Work with your child to write down a 3 column list. In the first column write down the worst case scenario, the second column is for the best case scenario, and the third is for the most likely outcome. Help your child brainstorm by asking these questions:
If all goes wrong what's the worst thing that can happen?
In an ideal world what outcome would you like to happen?
What is most likely to happen?
What could you do to prevent the worst case scenario from happening?
What could you do if the worst case scenario did happen?