When I was in the eighth grade, I failed my first test. I remember how ashamed I felt, how I feared my parents’ reaction, scared of how much of a failure and disappointment I am. So, when I became a mother almost 19 years ago, I promised myself that I would teach failure to my kids in a different way.
We all want to tell or children that they are smart all the time; since their toddlers building their first tower out of cubes. However, unlike common perception and sense, many publications and researches from recent years recommend that we do not tell our children they’re smart when they do impressive things. When I first heard of it, it seemed ridiculous and like it lacks sense. However, that changed as I dug into this theory more.
By praising our kids’ by telling them they are smart when they succeed, we are indirectly teaching our children that if they make mistakes or don’t do well, that they are not smart. However, it’s not just how we deal with the successes and triumphs, but also with the setbacks and failures.
We should show and teach our children that failures are a normal thing; that they aren’t something to be ashamed of, but a chance to grow and learn. I read an example by Kyla Haimovitz, Ph.D., which was published in The New York Times, that I liked a lot. The example was the following: imagine that your kid is struggling with some early math concepts, so you may say something like “not everyone needs to be good at numbers,” as a way to comfort them. However, what you’re doing, is implying that their math abilities are already set and unchangeable. That is so true, as we must teach our kids that failure isn’t the end of the world, and the situation can be changed.
Despite everything I wrote above, we have to understand that we can’t expect them to be fully calm about every loss and failure. What we can do, on the other hand, is getting them more comfortable about failures, whether big or small. After all, it is a natural and normal thing in everyone’s lives; we all go through it.