7 A’s to Help Your Kids Overcome Failure

One of the hardest things for a dad to deal with is to see his child struggle with overcoming failure. But how you handle it when your kid blows it or doesn’t make the grade in some way can turn what could have been a disaster into a rich learning experience. As a father of five, I have faced this situation countless times.

One daughter was crushed when she didn’t get the lead role she’d set her heart on in a play. A son was devastated when he didn’t make the starting team. When your kids come to you with what they think is an “F” of some kind, these 7 A’s will help you encourage them to turn a defeat or setback into an opportunity for growth.

1. Affirm worth.

Let them know that they are loved no matter what. Be sure to separate their identity, who they are at the core of their being, from their actions. This can be especially hard for young people who, these days, are bombarded by messages that say their value is based on their performance. You may want to listen to this 8 Lies Your Teen Believes podcast. Counter this attack on their worth by speaking about the qualities and strengths you see in them. And get specific so they know you mean it.

2. Applaud effort.

No one can ask more of others than to give their best. If your kids have done that, then the results are out of their hands. So be sure to commend them for trying. Again, be detailed; remind them of the time they spent revising, rehearsing, or practicing. Point out that their efforts were not wasted. They may not have “succeeded” at something, but they undoubtedly improved.

3. Acknowledge feelings.

Give them room to acknowledge and face difficult emotions like shame, guilt, or embarrassment. It’s a great place to start overcoming failure. Many people run from these kinds of feelings because they can be so uncomfortable. Help your children navigate through them and prepare them for the other, bigger emotional challenges they may face as they get older. But tread carefully here as you dig into your child’s heart.

4. Align yourself.

One way to help kids wrestle with awkward emotions is to share an experience from your own life when you failed in some way, and recall how you felt. Talk about what you learned from it all. Realizing that you have been there and survived will be an encouragement to them.

5. Ask questions.

When you sense they are comfortable enough to talk about it, invite them to examine what went wrong, or where they may have gone wrong. “What might you do differently next time, knowing what you know now?” And help them learn to weigh and balance the powerful way their emotions can affect their perception. “Why do you think it feels so bad to have been left out? Do you think it means you’re not acceptable? Is that really true?”

6. Advocate reflection.

Help them put things in perspective. Remind them that failure doesn’t have to be the end of the world but can be a stopover on the way to success. Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan, and The Beatles are on this list of “successful failures.”

Avoid false flattery and be authentic in praising your children for who they are and their incredible gifts.

7. Avoid flattery.

We live in a culture that gives trophies to kids just for showing up, but the real world isn’t like that. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. Your child must understand that reality. Everyone experiences failure at some point. Avoid false flattery and be authentic in praising your children for who they are and their incredible gifts.

Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 5 Things to Teach Your Kids About Failure.

Sound off: Do your kids struggle with overcoming failure? What are some other suggestions?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Where have you failed, and what did you learn from it?”