“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
- Henry Ford
What do you think about failure? Do you encourage your child to make mistakes? Do you celebrate attempts to try new things? Do you share your own failed attempts freely with your child?
Last night was Back to School Night at my new kindergartener’s school. The principal gave a motivating talk about the importance of extending the school’s core values into our children’s home lives as a way to reinforce the home-school connection.
At the end of the presentation the principal talked about failure, and how we should encourage our children to work hard to achieve their ideas and goals in spite of their lack of knowledge. If they don’t know how to do something, they shouldn’t see this as a limitation but as an opportunity to fail forward as they learn through the process of trying.
As you can imagine, I LOVED this talk and felt so grateful that my daughter landed in an environment with such entrepreneurial spirit at its heart.
At the end of the talk, they shared a link to an interview with the youngest female self-made billionaire, Sarah Blakely (founder of Spanx), who discussed her journey with ABC News. Whatever you might think of Spanx (I don’t own any myself), you’ll appreciate how her father redefined the word failure for her and her brother.
“We would sit around the dining room table at night and he would say, ‘OK, kids, what did you fail at today?’ I would say, ‘Dad, I tried out for this sport and I was horrible,’ and he would say ‘way to go,’ and high five me. And it completely reset my definition of failure. So, for my brother and me, failure is not trying.”
Parents and Teachers as Co-Learners
It’s so important to model our own failures to our children. If children don’t see us struggle as we try new things, and in turn find ways to overcome setbacks, how can we ever expect them to do the same?
When was the last time you celebrated a failure with a child? Not too long ago I baked a new recipe with my kids. We thought we could alter the recipe to use up some of our pantry ingredients and talked about experimentation as we went along. In end the recipe was a disaster, but it was a fantastic opportunity to discuss how we could do it differently next time. Some of the things that came up: follow the recipe more closely, take more time with fewer distractions, and don’t use so much pumpkin.
If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy this post on failure.
A question for you:
When was the last time you tried something new? Did you succeed on your first attempt? If not, what did you have to do in order to achieve your goal?