The pressure to succeed, especially in Singapore, can often feel overwhelming. It is only natural that as parents, we strive to prepare our children for success by providing encouragement, guidance, and assistance when they face challenges. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, things don’t always go as planned, and our children may experience failure.
This often leads to us morphing into mollycoddling our children, intervening too quickly, and shielding them from the harsh realities of the world. However, as parents, we need to realise this will prevent our children from developing the resilience they need to face the inevitable challenges of life. Therefore, we must prepare our children not only for success but also for dealing with failure.
Here are some of our thoughts on letting children emerge stronger from failures.
Failure helps kids bounce back
Life is full of ups and downs, and experiencing failure can be tough. However, it also teaches one of life’s most crucial lessons – resilience. When children face failure, it’s an opportunity to learn how to bounce back and try again, developing a never-give-up attitude and a growth mindset.
I recall a classroom experience two years back when a student we worked closely with suddenly got a B for her additional mathematics exam. Being a high-achiever all her school life, she took it badly and was uncomfortable and embarrassed to share her results with me.
I told her that it’s actually not a bad thing after all for her to experience that hiccup. This may sound like weird advice, but hear me out. Often, when things have been smooth sailing for too long, sometimes we need to deal with unexpected bumps. Through such situations in life, we learn to adapt to uncomfortable situations and emerge stronger. In this student’s instance, she “needed” to underperform in her exams to remind herself not to be complacent by taking her past performance for granted, and continue working hard. This realisation might not have happened if things were constantly going smoothly for her. She heeded my advice, changed her approach and became more positive about her learning. Needless to say, she went on to ace her national exams!
Failure is a great teacher
When we guide our children too closely towards success, it can deprive them of the valuable lessons that come with failure. Failure is a great teacher, providing kids with opportunities to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Of course, we still want to be there for our kids and guide them through life’s challenges, but we also need to give them space to explore and make mistakes on their own. It’s through these experiences that they’ll develop problem-solving skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Take the example of learning how to ride a bike. As a parent, it’s tempting to want to hold onto the bike and keep it steady for your child, but it’s important to let go and let them experience the wobbles and falls that come with learning. Sure, it might be scary for both you and your child, but it’s only through making mistakes and learning from them that they’ll eventually develop the confidence and skill to ride on their own.
Failure builds character
When we encounter failure, we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and to grow as individuals. Oftentimes, failure does not happen because of inability, but rather a lack of mental tenacity to face one’s obstacles when the going gets tough.
Ironically, the only way to get over this mental hump is to accept that failure is a natural part of success. As a tutor, I’ve seen firsthand how even the smartest of students are terrified of failure. They worry so much that they won’t get good grades or get into a good school, that the pressure eventually overwhelms them and they crumble when it matters most. When such instances happen, I can’t help but feel that it’s a waste, as I know they could have performed better.
In fact, many successful people credit their failures as the driving force behind their success. They recognize that it was through their failures that they learned important lessons and developed the mental fortitude and determination required to succeed against all odds. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job as a TV news anchor but learned from that experience and continued working hard, eventually becoming one of the most successful talk show hosts in history. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, but he used that rejection as motivation to work harder and ultimately become one of the greatest basketball players of all time. As seen by these examples, it is essential to view failure favourably and use it as a stepping stone in our journey towards success.
So, the next time your child experiences failure, remember – perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing after all! As parents, use this as an opportunity to teach them about resilience, self-awareness, and character. By doing so, your child will become a confident and capable individual who is ready to tackle any challenge that comes their way.
Renowned basketball player Michael Jordan puts it best –
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”