Turning FAIL into WOW and self-belief

Are parents becoming more obsessed with what their children will achieve in their future rather than focusing on the here and now? In other words, are parents fearful of failure?

In this blog, we explore some of these pressures and anxieties on parents and children. What happens when we have this fear of failure and does it have a knock-on effect on children? Most importantly we tackle how we can all take steps to embrace failure to build a stronger self-belief and confidence in our children.

Fearing Failure

In a recent article in the New York Times, author Julie Lythcott-Haims highlighted the rise of the ‘helicopter-parent’. A style of parenting often explained as literally “hovering over your child” exactly like a helicopter. It is often thought that this style of parenting restricts the child into making some of their own childhood decisions, therefore preventing children to occasionally make the odd mistake, creating a ‘tick-box’ style culture of success and avoiding the dreaded word FAILURE. “We speak of dreams as boundless, limitless realms, but in reality often we create parameters, conditions and limits within which our kids are permitted to dream - with a checklisted childhood as the path to achievement” (1)

‘Helicopter parenting’ as Lythcott-Haims describes can therefore often lead to a more rigid structure of parenting with a direct emphasis on the child to achieve and succeed. This added anxiety for the parent(s) ultimately rubs off onto the child/ren. In other words - anxious parent = anxious child.

So for parents, why do we feel so fearful of failure for our children? Madeline Levine, Ph.D. explains that “parents see failure as a source of pain for their child instead of an opportunity for them to say, ‘I can deal with this. I’m strong’” By allowing children to make mistakes and to learn how to deal with that feeling of failing, Levine believes this develops key characteristics needed for their future. Failing can help them learn with “coping skills, emotional resilience, creative thinking and the ability to collaborate.” (2).

In order for children to learn about failure and to understand that not everything will go their way at times in life, perhaps we should allow our children to be independent without being constantly watched over. Making small mistakes in childhood, encourages children to think for themselves and to work out a solution to their problems. This isn’t to say that parents shouldn’t step in to help and support when a solution cannot be reached. But these small feelings of failure can help shape how children learn to deal with problems and how they solve them physically and emotionally in later adult life.

Turning ‘Fail into Wow’

So take a deep breath, relax - it is okay to allow your child to experience failure and disappointment in their life. It gives them valuable experience of creating their own solutions to problems themselves. It contributes towards giving them the solid foundations of a supported self-belief, helping to develop their confidence and giving them the skill set needed as a young adult.

Michelle Gant wrote a wonderful article for the Huffington Post on giving the gift of self belief. As a Mum herself, she realised that the “best gift she could give her child was the belief in herself”. Giving this self belief would make her daughter more resilient and able to deal with difficult times, and at the same time “humble and measured when celebrating success.” (3)

This resonated with us and we happily share below the three top ways Michelle Gant (3) believes you can instill self belief in your child.

Giving the Gift of Self Belief

It’s good to talk

Ask your child questions and listen to their answers. Give your child their own voice so they feel truly valued.

Power to the children!

Give room for your child to answer questions in their own way. Allowing children to realise they have the solution to their original problem all along can be empowering. Another good way of empowering children is to give them a level of responsibility. This makes them feel equal.

Mind your language

Avoid ‘labels’ or pigeon-holing your child into a particular role. Be mindful of your language even when speaking or describing yourself to avoid negative self-image.

Getting the balance right

As parents we are all trying our best and want the very best for our children - it’s only natural to fear failure. The key is to get the balance right. Be there for your child, encourage of course and don't be too anxious about their achievements. It’s okay to allow them to make mistakes and feel a sense of failure. As long as you are there to support, listen and talk, you can help your child to learn how to develop and explore their own alternative solutions to the problem - that is key. After all happy parent = happy child.

So speak to your child whether they are 3 or 13. Work with them to work out some achievable goals without being pushy. More importantly listen to them, give them a sense of empowerment and build on that valuable structure of self-belief.

Useful sources:




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