7 Tips on teaching your kids about failure

By | November 7, 2013 | Lifestyle & Personal Growth

7 Tips on teaching your kids about failure

A Dad’s Point-of-View

No one likes to lose, but ironically, losing is often better for us. Bruce Springsteen (love his music, hate his politics) covered this idea so well in Glory Days where he sings about a high school baseball star who reflects on his high school years when he probably “peaked,” along with the cute cheerleader who is now divorced and taking care of their kids, alone.

We all know the stories of the nerds that made it big. They are now the stuff of legends from Bill Gates to Warren Buffet and more. Going through hurdles and failure simply strengthens our character. The old saying that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is simply true.

That’s why helicopter parenting is so damaging to kids. Hovering over and protecting our kids from every bruise and disappointment only delays those lessons that actually empower us to achieve. Standing behind our kids when they’ve messed up at school rather than supporting the teacher shows our kids that mom or dad will rescue them and there are no meaningful consequences for their actions.

Let me get political for a moment. We have a president who seemingly was raised in an environment where owning it and taking responsibility were not on his agenda. Consequences are incredible learning tools. By now, it’s pretty obvious that Obamacare is not working, but we’re still hearing excuses rather than apologies and meaningful ownership of the problems inherent with this health care program. This is a horrible example for our kids, as is most of the behavior we see coming out of Washington DC these days.

I’ll step away from discussing politics, since it seems to get me in trouble with those who share different opinions. Whether you lean right or left, I think we can all agree that today’s generation of children has a rough road ahead of them. Yet, because kids are coddled, they have not learned independence, self-reliance, and the value of hard work. If everyone’s getting a handout (a.k.a. entitlement) and everybody wins a trophy, then nobody learns there really are winners and losers in real life!

I really don’t care for conflict. Who does? But how we resolve the conflicts in our lives is yet another character builder. My wife and I are very passionate about our views on our family life. We definitely butt heads with verbal ferocity. She may be smaller than me in size, but she packs a mean (figurative) punch and I never relish engaging her when she’s upset. Yet, most every time we disagree and come out on the other side, we’re a stronger couple.

Dealing with conflicts at home and work, or at school for our kids, teaches us to resolve our problems versus looking to place blame. What has disturbed so many Americans about our government is the blame-throwing versus the constructive efforts to seek resolution. Since we can’t control what our elected officials do, we must control what we model for our kids in our homes!

Here are some basic suggestions to teach your kids about failure:

  1. Don’t rescue your kids from every failure.
  2. If your kid messed up at school, be by their side, but let them face the music. Support them rather than rescue them.
  3. When your kid messes up at home – literally and figuratively – issue an immediate consequence and don’t relax on your follow-through because you feel bad for your kid.
  4. Model how to resolve conflicts by showing a willingness to engage with your spouse or partner to work things out.
  5. If you’re a single parent, simply model conflict resolution between yourself and your kid(s). The same clearly holds for dual-parent households.
  6. Don’t yell. Yelling is not conflict resolution.
  7. When your child loses, be sympathetic but let them lick their wounds and encourage them to get back on the horse and go for it.

I think you get the drift of this article, even as I’m drifting from home life to the political actions in D.C. We can see so many examples of people surmounting failure. People Magazine always has a feature – every issue, I believe – showing how an individual has overcome extreme hardships, failure, illness, accidents, or wounds, to become a powerful inspiration to others.

My boys saw their dad go through a terrible divorce, saw their mom almost literally disappear from their lives, but have learned to be more resilient just as I have. Yes, I tried to protect them from some of the ugliness of those dark days of divorce, as I fondly refer to them, but I didn’t protect them from the truth, especially as they got older. I think they are strong and better for surviving it, much as I am.

It’s our choice how we respond to what happens to us. We may not control what happens but we can fully control our response. Make the choice to be better for whatever hardship you may encounter.

Teach your children well.

What other tips would you add to this list?

Spread the word!
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Bruce Sallan

Bruce Sallan, author of The Empty-Nest Road Trip Blues: An Interactive Journal from A Dad's Point-of-View and A Dad’s Point-of-View: We ARE Half the Equation and radio host of “The Bruce Sallan Show – A Dad’s Point-of-View” gave up a long-term showbiz career to become a stay-at-home-dad. He has dedicated his new career to becoming the Dad advocate. He carries his mission with not only his books and radio show, but also his column A Dad’s Point-of-View, syndicated in over 100 newspapers and websites worldwide, and his dedication to his community on Facebook and Twitter. Join Bruce and his community each Thursday for #DadChat, from 6pm -7pm PST, the Tweet Chat that Bruce hosts.

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