Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. (Winston Churchill)
Often failure teaches you what you need to know. Teenagers are in the state of constant learning, from academics, to social expectations, to the changes of their being, both physiologically and psychologically. Failure needs to be normalized as one part of that learning opportunity. Having a teen share with you a failure they are experiencing is a great opportunity to listen with curiosity, ask questions and help your teen to discover their own resilience, grit, and redirection of the pathway to achieve their goal. It may be helping your teen to rewrite the goal with more steps to achieving it and creating ways for your teen to track their progress. But what can we do as parents to help our teen overcome their fear of failure?
It is important to respond to failure without judgment. If failure is seen as unacceptable, your teen will struggle to make choices or experience intense anxiety about the possibility of failure. Instead focus on a growth mindset. A growth mindset is that you are always learning and in fact failing is seen as a great teacher and part of life. The growth mindset views failure as an opportunity to grow, develop new skills and discover what else your teen needs to achieve success. If your teen did not make a sports team, the conversation becomes about what your teen needs to do to make the team next year? Your teen fails algebra, the motto may be I came, I learned, and next semester I will conquer algebra. It is creating that positive mindset, which includes positive affirmations to bolster your teen’s self-confidence and learning that failure will be something they encounter more than once and in many parts of their life.
Last, give your teen opportunities to fail. An important part of parenting is allowing your teen to fail in order to build resilience and to recognize they have what they need within them, whether they fail or succeed. It means teaching skills of practice and persistence and positive thinking, “I can’t do it yet.” For example, it is discussing a failing algebra grade from a growth mindset and goal setting point of view. Having your teen ask themselves, “Where am I struggling, who can help me, where can I get help?” This discussion is productive and creates solutions and goals to improve your teen’s algebra grade. Telling your teen the grade is unacceptable and giving a consequence without understanding the reason behind the grade creates a fear of failure and breaks down communication and the relationship. We are all striving to create teens who will be resilient, empowered individuals who will be successful and thriving members of our community.
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