Posts Tagged ‘self esteem’

The Upside of Failing

June 9, 2010

Failure is NOT always a bad thing. Sometimes failing is what motivates, inspires and teaches us what it takes to be successful. Yet, too many educators and youth advocates view failure as something to be avoided at all cost. While they are usually well meaning, they are often dead wrong. In fact, by building environments that NEVER allow kids to fail, we are actually letting our kids down by not allowing them to gain the necessary experience to deal with the inevitable rejection and failure that happens to all of us who are human.

School districts put social promotion policies in place to “protect” a failing students self esteem. I think that is misguided on many levels. Isn’t it worse for a student’s self esteem to know that if they do not understand day one lessons and that they have an entire year of being lost ahead of them? Isn’t it better to let them try again to master the content and gain the skills needed for them to earn the opportunity to move up to the next set of challenges? That way students they will internalize that they can do, not just be told that they can do it!

Youth sports programs that don’t keep score so that the loosing team doesn’t know they lost do not seem to understand that many kids (not to mention parents) keep score anyway; and by not officially keeping score aren’t we really telling kids that loosing is so terrible we should pretend it did not even happen? In many coaches pitch baseball leagues they do not even let a hitter strike out for fear they will feel bad. But which is worse for a kid – taking three swings and sitting down or taking swing after swing after swing after swing while everyone on both teams watches you miss the ball? The inability to hit a ball may lead to a decision that baseball is not for them OR a decision to work on it until they can hit the ball.

There are too many examples of how failure has been central to some of the greatest successes and most successful people in history to continue to believe all failure should be eliminated from the lives of our children. Failure turning into success has not only been demonstrated by “great people” in history, but also in the daily experience of “regular people” whose failures have brought out the best in themselves and the people around them. I do believe as parents, teachers, coaches and concerned adults we should do everything we can do to help our kids be successful. But just saying and acting as if they are successful when they are not is not always helpful.

Here is a short but GREAT video that I came across that can help students, teachers and parents remember that failure can and usually is an important part of success. Don’t Be Afraid of Failure: