Permission to Fail
"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed." - Booker T. Washington
Children can feel stressed. Little ones work so hard at learning to read and write. They already worked hard learning to listen, speak, and gain a certain level of independence (such as using a spoon without help).
There’s much failure before success.
How many times did food end up on the floor before it made it into the mouth?
When it comes to learning in a school setting, many times adults anticipate that now their child will catch on quickly. This can increase stress for everyone involved.
Failure will happen. We spilled things more when we were younger, but it still happens today. Learning is part of life. Teaching your child how to fail well is a gift. That may sound strange, but it is true. If I don’t know how to fail well, I won’t want to try new things. Failing once doesn’t need to mean "stop." It shouldn’t. When we fall, we get back up. Maybe we need someone’s hand to get up, but we still get up.
How can we communicate to children that failure happens, but they can try again?
When children do not think it is safe to fail, they will not have the courage to try.
Let’s make space for failure. How do we do that?
It begins with us. If I’m constantly criticizing myself, children will notice. If I am not willing to admit my own mistakes, how will I improve? If I’m speaking more “I can’t believe you missed that” than “keep trying, you’ll get it” they’ll notice. Our words matter.
Our world is filled with voices. Most seem to be negative. “You can’t. You won’t.”
Let’s use our words to speak truth and life.
Oh, Moms and Dads, you are the first and most important teachers your children have! Tell your children you love them. Even when they fail, remind them that you love them. They need to know that your love and respect are not dependent on their success.
We can choose to both acknowledge the struggle and kindle hope.
Here are some ideas:
“Maybe you can’t read this word yet, but you will! Take your time. Sound it out. I knew you could do it!”
“I know that you’ve had a hard time with ___. You can do this. I’ll be here for you no matter what happens.”
When children know you care and that they don’t have to be successful the first time, their confidence to try again will grow. Freedom to fail brings courage to try!
Quotes on Failure and Success:
"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." - Henry Ford
"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” - George Washington Carver
“Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons, from the failure. So that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.” — Maya Angelou
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again. That is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan
“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
– Winston Churchill
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.”
— Oprah Winfrey
“Don’t fear failure — not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” — Bruce Lee
“You always pass failure on your way to success.” — Mickey Rooney
“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” – C. S. Lewis
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan
“An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.” – Charles F. Kettering
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome." — Booker T. Washington
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” – Confucius
"Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. It is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end street.” — William A. Ward
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates
“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”
— George Washington Carver
"Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right." — Henry Ford
"for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes." - Proverbs 24:16 NIV
Questions to Ponder:
What does failing well look like?
Why is failing well an important skill to have?
How do you acknowledge the struggle and kindle hope with your family?
Where do you think you’ll be able to create space for failure?