Failure: 4 Ways to Help Your Child Deal With It

There are many videos and articles encouraging parents to allow and accept failure by their children. Our society encourages parents to let children know that failure is part of learning. Yet, parents also don’t wish for their children to accept failure as a norm. This causes parents and children to feel very conflicted about failure. Here are 4 ways to help your child deal with failure.


1. Manage Your Expectations

I have a student who had never passed any of his exams since Primary 2. When he came to me, he had failed so many tests and exams that he was ready to give up studying. I set specific scores for him to strive for each of his test. Even though he failed in the tests, he managed to gradually improve. Eventually, he managed to pass his PSLE. He didn’t feel stressed to perform because I had managed his expectations.

Children have an innocent desire to please their parents and teachers. If your expectations are too high, your child will feel stressed and may not grow in self-confidence. Eventually, the child may give up trying altogether because the expectations are unattainable. 

Goals should be realistic, specific and explicitly told to the child. If you find that your child did not achieve the goal, manage your expectations so that your child can manage theirs as well.


2. Understand Their Perspective

It’s easy for adults to say “it’s ok” when we meet with failure because we have the luxury of experience. Children have a very different perspective on failure. Failure is a very scary thing to a child because they don’t experience it often. It invokes feelings of sadness, disappointment, judgement, envy and fear. That’s a lot of emotions for a child to handle all at once! 

Empathise with your child. Mirror their emotions so that they know you understand how they feel. By doing so, your child will observe how you deal with the emotional aspect of failure. This would be a great opportunity to model for your child by playing “If I were [Your Child’s Name], I would….” Remember to end off such sessions on an encouraging note rather than a threatening one so that your child grows to be persevering.


3. Create Exposure to Failure

The first lesson when I learnt in-line skating was learning how to fall. It seems very counterintuitive, but it was an essential part of skating. It helped me subconsciously get rid of my fear of falling and trusting in my protective gear. After a short while I was happily skating away. 

The same theory can be applied to education. We can give children the room to fail first and then work towards success. For example, if your child is about to learn a new topic like the Human Digestive System; you can give them a short quiz on it first. Allow them to struggle and fail at it, then teach the content to them. When failure is done in a safe environment, it can create a desire to learn exponentially. 


4. Personal Involvement

A very common response to academic failure is to send children for tuition. Yes, this is usually necessary. However, tuition isn’t a miracle cure. Studies have shown that parent involvement in their child’s education has consistently shown positive association

When parents get involved, children feel that their parents understand their struggles better. Every little bit of involvement counts as long as your child is aware that you are putting in effort to run along side with them. 

Parent involvement is usually the toughest thing to do because it requires parents to learn their child’s syllabus. Many parents struggle with this especially when they reach the primary 3 to 6 syllabus. That’s where the online leaning portal at Chris Academy seeks to help.(Will be launch at the end of 2018) Most tuition centers do not teach parents. And even if they do, they usually only offer sporadic workshops. Parents also find it hard to go for these workshops because of time and budget constraints. The learning portal allows parents to learn what your child needs at your convenience.


In conclusion, saying “it’s ok” when your child fails is probably one of the worst things to do. It permits them to stay status quo, it shows little concern and involvement, and it does nothing to mitigate their negative emotions. We need to intentionally teach children how to deal with failure rather than accepting it. 


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