The Power of Teaching How to Fail

Grit, tenacity, and perseverance, call it what you want, but it all comes down to teaching children how to fail and try again.

A growing body of research suggests that having these skills plays a huge role in a child’s long term success. As caretakers, we tend to make things easy for children when they are frustrated or having a hard time completing a task, like tying their shoes. We take over for them so we can move on to the next thing. Sometimes we forget to slow down and remember that the task is the next thing.

Mastering tasks gives children confidence and pride. It shows them that they are capable people. Without that knowledge, children give up when faced with something difficult whether it be a building a tall block tower, learning how to write their names, using a pair of scissors or negotiating with a friend over a favorite toy car.

So how can we do it? In the face of all there is to teach children, how do we encourage children to be independent? With our youngest, we can start with simple tasks. Ask yourself, what can the child do? Can the child zip his coat if we start it for him? Can she use a paper towel to clean a mess she made? Can he try to pour his own glass of water if we give him a small pitcher with just enough water in it to fill his glass?

This isn’t about “toughing up” our children or being hard on them. It is about teaching them the skills to try and try again.  In a recent interview, Kentucky author Barbara Kingsolver said that she fostered this skill in her own children with a simple mantra, “You can do hard things.”