On Failures (And What They Are Not)
How to help your child when they don't succeed.
(Diane Cassells)

Parents are such hopeful creatures. From the moment those two little lines appear on that pregnancy test, we’re welling up with hope. Will the pregnancy go well? Will our little love child be a rocket scientist? Will they be a superstar sportsperson? Am I baking a bun that’ll be president? I know you had these conversations with yourself. 

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And that hope doesn’t dim, even after our kids are born – it just evolves. We’re cheering on the sidelines of a sports field at stupid o’clock on a Saturday morning, hopeful that our kid will score that goal. We’re helping them study for exams, or we’re trying ever so hard to get them into University. We’re holding all our opposable digits while they enter an office for their very first job interview. Sometimes, that hard work and hope pays off. And sometimes, it just doesn’t. Let’s talk about the not-so-cheery outcomes, this time round.

It’s not about you

So your kid didn’t make the cut for the swimming squad, even though they’re darn certain they tried their best. Your job is to remember two things: Firstly, this is not a failure, because they can try again at some point and secondly, this is not about you, it’s about your kid. I’ve watched parents berate their dejected children when they’ve been marked as not quite up to scratch for something and – really now – there’s how to kill a dream, folks. Please, for the love of your children, remove your ego from the equation. So they didn’t make it in to the A team, but just got appointed to the B team. Well, B is the first letter of the word “Beautiful” and there are 25 other letters in the alphabet. Take a large chill pill, overzealous dad over there.

Maybe it’s not their time to shine

If we all won at everything we did, none of us would end up determined to succeed at anything in life. In fact, I fear, we’d end up like those people we laughed at in Wall-E. You know - rotund, fed and whizzed around on zooming cars while we take in some mindless drivel a corporation dreamt up for us to watch. That stuff’s not life guys - let’s not be those people. Failure can become a steely determination for your child, so be okay with them failing at a few things sometimes. And sometimes the “failure” isn’t actually a failure at all – it just wasn’t their time to shine, this time.

A lesson to be learnt

Nothing brought this home to me more than my kid’s mournful face as she recently realized she hadn’t achieved a goal she’d set out to attain. She’d missed it by a teeny, tiny fraction. Contrasted against some struggles she’s endured in the last while, and the fact that she achieved quite highly in other areas of life, I really have no reason to be anything but  extremely proud of her. But she isn’t. She’s hard on herself about it, and seems to have forgotten all the other incredible things she’s done recently. It’s my job as her mom to remind of these good things that she has achieved (most of them were not on her goal list, so they happened naturally!) and help her plan to achieve her goal the next time the opportunity arises.

So, here’s to failures, or the things we think they are. Failure is the inability or unwillingness to try again, and we’re definitely not going to let the opportunity of trying again slip by.

How do you deal with your children's failures?

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