Failure – a word which tends to be associated with not being good enough, or being unsuccessful. For some it might bring feelings of embarrassment, anxiety, a lack of confidence or even anger.
Children are affected by the way adults react to their perceived failures and watch how we handle our own personal failures. We have the opportunity to model positive attitudes and behaviours which acknowledge failure as a common, normal part of the learning process.
As parents and educators, we should be encouraging children to be curious and get enjoyment from learning. Developing new skills and trying new things should be exciting – the fact that we may not automatically excel at these shouldn’t be a factor holding them back.
A growth mindset – the view that we can get better at something with effort and perseverance – helps build the resilience needed to try again and not be too disheartened when we don’t immediately succeed.
The acronym above is often displayed in classrooms as a visual reminder that failing is part of learning. It’s a useful prompt – however it needs to be emphasised that failure is part of learning as an ongoing process; there’s only so many times a child will accept it’s their first attempt in learning a new skill.
We must also accept failure for what it is – we don’t always have to succeed! As well as encouraging resilience and a growth mindset in children, we need to let them know that it’s ok not to be amazing at something; even if they’ve persisted and worked hard! We all have different strengths and skills. Failure isn’t a dirty word.
Sharing Your Failures
I’ve been listening to a new podcast ‘For Flourishing’s Sake’ by Frederika Roberts (bite-sized episodes targeting teacher and school leader well-being) – episode 19 had a nice idea from Dr Caren Baruch- Feldman, which I’ve shared below.
Create a display at school – a ‘Fail Wall’ of photos, notes etc. of times children have tried something new and made mistakes/failed at it. Teachers and staff should join in and share their own examples too…
This is a simple, practical idea that could be re-created at home on the e.g. fridge door/pin board… a ‘Family Fail’ area!
The more we share and talk about failure, the easier it becomes for children (and us!) to realise everyone has experienced failure and it’s nothing to be embarrassed or disheartened by. Becoming more open to personal challenges and accepting that failure may be a part of this will help to create a stronger, resilient outlook.
My final suggestion is that, in time, there could be two displays – both would show examples of times you’d experienced failure – however, one would focus on times you eventually succeeded at (whatever your personal goal was) while the other would focus on times you eventually accepted ‘X’ was just not for you! In this way, failure is acknowledged as part of the learning process and the fact that we don’t have to always succeed is highlighted too.
Thanks for reading!