Making Failure a Tool for Discovery
How do you speak to your children and students about failure? Do you create an environment and engage in a dialogue with your children where failure is a tool for discovery? At VentureLab, we’ve spoken with students about how they perceive failure.
In doing so, students learn that failure has a vocabulary all its own, one that’s fraught with meaning, both negative and positive. Here are some connotations the students offered for failure:
- “Setback, messed up lesson”
- “Challenge, one more down, now we know”
- “Opportunity, hit a wall, time to redesign”
- “Epic fail, experience, teachable moment”
- “Goof, screw up”
It’s apparent that children internalize the way in which we talk to them about failure.
Rather than calling attention to failure as something to be ashamed of, when a child makes a mistake and accepts it in the right spirit, tell the child, “I am proud of you.” This reinforces the idea that not only do mistakes happen, but when you own them, you prime yourself for learning from those mistakes.
The home should be a safe place for children to tell you the truth about the parts of their lives that aren’t going so well. Make failure safe. Demonstrate unconditional love by being somewhat oblivious to easy achievements while enthusiastically supporting children in pursuing and discovering their own passions. Celebrate achievements that require perseverance and learning from failures—not ones that rely simply on talent or luck.
Children have a remarkable ability to overcome failure and bounce back when they are on a path that interests them. The phrase, “I believe in you,” really matters. Students carry those words as they learn from setbacks, stay on task, and deliver on the promises they make to themselves.
What do you do when the youth in your life experience setbacks or make mistakes? How do you help them to accept and profit from them?
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