As a teacher myself, I have come across students who hold back themselves because they fear failure. It is not a rare sight after all. We've all come across children who hesitate to speak up mainly because they fear they are going to say something wrong. I have worked with thousands of children, and I can distinctly talk about two types of responses children give when they're posed with a challenge. They either give up even before they try, so that they can avoid the chances of failure. Or they start fretting when they don't get it right the first time they try it.
Both of these lead to an anxiety in children which would certainly affect their performance as well. The very fear of failure can be disastrous if not treated the right way in the right time. You have nothing to worry about if your child isn't good at something. He/she can always get better at it. But you definitely have something to worry about if your child says, "I'm not going at it"!
Based on my experience in helping kids explore success, I have come up with a few approaches to help children overcome their fear of failure. I hope it helps you and your children too!
Change the perception of failure
Kids learn from us, and it is us who will be setting an example for them. So, if we are responding to failure or mistakes in a certain way, they are definitely going to learn the same. A little presence of mind, and we can show them a different perspective about failure.
The best way to begin is with positive responses towards our own mistakes. We could tell them about what we learned from our mistakes, and what good happened of it. We can even have a humorous approach where we can laugh it off, and pick ourselves from the mistake again.
Let us not get anxious or worried ourselves when our children make mistakes, let us help them develop a positive mindset.
Promote efforts, not proficiency
Let us not get too worried when our children feel they aren't proficient enough at something. We could rather show them that a performance is not about proficiency but about practice and effort. I am not asking you to just push your child to 'try harder' when they already feel they've tried enough. Instead, you can discuss certain strategies which could work for them in their next attempt. Whether you are talking about failure or success, always emphasize more on practise, in the process than the end result.
That could potentially change the way your child looks at failure!
Get them thinking about the solution
When there is a problem, do not spring in and try to protect your children from it. Instead, encourage them to find their own solutions. Talk to them about their action plans, and what those actions could result in. If at all they have a bumpy ride doing it, ask them questions such as:
Your children can do their own thinking for coming up with solutions. You just try suggesting them like, "How about you start your assignments a little earlier?"
With this, you will be showing them a constructive approach towards problems rather than the frustrated approach.
Shower endless love
Children link their self worth directly to how parents think of them. They may feel you wouldn't appreciate them or love them as much if they failed to secure high grades or prizes in other activities. This naturally leads to fear of failure. I know you love your child endlessly, but you can choose to clearly show them your unconditional love even when they have gotten something wrong. You may not love your child any less if he/she fails, but see to it that they know it too.
While you constantly keep checking children's scores and grades, they feel insecure and will also start to believe that it matters too much to you. Relieve them out of this stress, and tell them that you would be more happy if they persistently tried. Because, as long as they don't stop trying, things are just fine.
Talk to them about success and failure
If your child is old enough to understand, you can choose to talk to them about success and how it can be tricky to achieve it. Yes, don't call it difficult, call it tricky. Even small changes in words can make a huge difference. Also tell them how failure can drive someone to success. Give them examples of great achievers who have found success only because they kept going despite failures! Try to motivate them with stories, but don't get too preachy!
These are few of the approaches that can drastically change how children look at failure. I have found results with the help of these. I'm sure you will too.
PS: There's one big idea that can totally extradite the fear of failure from your child's mind. Wait for my next blog!