Why We Teach Our Kids Failure Is Good!

by: Candice Lapin

In our increasing culture of instal-perfect lives, there has begun a trend towards creating a perfect appearance.  But, its driving kids into major stress.  There doesn't seem to be any room for failure?  Or failure's cousin--mistakes.  The problem with our increasing social quest for outward perfection is that it is not promoting growth in our students.  In fact, it is stunting growth.  Our kids are afraid to fail and even more afraid to take risks.  

On a recent meeting with a younger 19 year old that I mentor, he relayed to me that he was "officially" done learning to waterski.  He relayed he was just "no good."  I asked him to elaborate on what had happened.  I was expected a long list of stories of weekends attempting to ski.  But, his story was quite different.  He went out on a lake with a group of friends who were great at water skiing.  He, however, had never done it.  He told me he only got up one time.  1 time!  He was devastated.  Although, it also sounded more like he was embarrassed.  He assumed that if he was not able to get up as his more experienced friends had done, it was a foregone conclusion that he wouldn't be able to.  Since, he had not natural ability, he shouldn't even bother!  Can you believe that?  He had a complete misconception about how to learn waterskiing and how to learn period!  But, his need to be perfect on day 1 is not unique to him, it is becoming more and more of a pattern with the young kids I see day in and day out.     

Working with so many kids, I have become a huge cheerleader of failure!  In fact, I am a FAILURE advocate!  

Here are the three reasons why: 

(1)           We learn from failure.  Failure is good.  We gain information and experience.  We have to learn something is hot often by experience.  We have to touch the hot stove to stimulate our curiosity and satiate it.

(2)           We develop resilience from failure.  We learn how to gather ourselves and heal from the pain of touching the hot stove.  We learn that we can heal from a painful experience.  No matter how insignificant or how mighty.

(3)           We learn how to handle adversity.  Through various stages of trial and error, we learn how to handle the cycles of life.  There are stages of success and stages of loss or disappointment.  There are periods of retrenchment and periods of victory. 

We need to teach our students that failure is a necessary part of the learning process.  How else will anyone get good at anything!