Helping our children embrace failure

Imagine a child or teenager running home and proudly announcing to their parents that they’d failed a test that day.

Silly thought, of course. From early in life we’re taught that failing is bad, the consequences unpleasant. Failure quickly becomes intrinsically linked to our sense of self-worth – so much so that we’ll actively avoid even the chance of failing (and even blame others when we do) right into adulthood.

On the flip side, not failing becomes a primary data point of progress.

But there are powerful learning opportunities on the other side of failure. If we’re reflective, analytical, confident, relaxed and free from judgement, we will learn from our mistakes. And the best bit is that we’ll actually better retain that learning (seriously, it’s a thing: https://www.annualreviews.org/…/10.1146/annurev-psych-01041…).

Sometimes we learn from other people’s mistakes. That’s great, but we’re all human and our own missteps are inevitable. Why do we spend half our life obsessively trying to avoid them instead of stacking them up as stepping stones to deeper understanding, context, experience?

Give children the space to get things wrong with confidence. When they can do that, they’ll learn with confidence too.


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