Why Failure Is an Important Part of Childhood

Why Failure Is an Important Part of Childhood

Learning that it’s okay to stumble and that it’s part of everyday life helps kids succeed.

By Lorraine Allen

As parents, it can be hard to watch kids fail. But helping children learn to handle setbacks is crucial to healthy development, and far more beneficially than teaching them to avoid tough challenges. Failure is an important, everyday part of childhood, and there are several simple ways that we can support kids through these moments so that they are able to move past them, develop resilience, and thrive.

“Kids need practice at failing so they can learn how to deal with it in both a practical and emotional way, and know how to move on,” says Amy Schwab, Ph.D., a child psychologist who teaches parenting classes. So how can parents help provide this? By simply allowing kids to push their limits, try new things, and by supporting them and encouraging them, no matter how much they struggle.

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But even as we cheer them on and support them, parents should “try to avoid bailing your child out,” Dr. Schwab cautions. Instead, show them that you know what it feels like to fail too, and empathize by saying: “I know it’s frustrating when things don’t work out as we wanted them to!” Then try to guide them toward solving their struggle with age-appropriate questions, like “How can we fix this?” or “What do you want to do next?” This approach encourages kids to think for themselves, Dr. Schwab explains, and helps them move on and succeed.

It may sound too easy to be true, but decades of research have also shown that the best way to for a parent to help kids deal with failure is by nurturing them and loving them wholly, from infancy on. In his book How Children Succeed, author Paul Though devotes his entire first chapter to “How to Fail.” In this, he concludes that no matter what a child’s circumstances were growing up, early nurturing and attention from mothers “fostered in them a resilience that acted as a protective buffer against stress.” And, when the “challenges of life emerged, even years later, (kids) were able (…) to assert themselves, draw on reserves of self-confidence, and make their way forward.”


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Lorraine is a freelance parenting, health and food writer, and she shares her cooking adventures and family recipes at MixPlayEat.com.

Image ©iStock.com/SGiardina

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