How to Help Your Child Be OK With Failure

Failure is really important!

I specialize in working with kids and teens who are consistently high performers in the classroom. And a lot of times, underneath it all, there's a ton of anxiety. They worry about failure. They get so focused on small things they've done wrong that they can't see the greater picture. So for people who have serious anxiety, an A- compared to an A is a huge difference. 

Failure helps you to gain perspective, and not lose the forest for the trees. 

As parents, we are able to help guide our children and teens to this perspective, and recognize that challenges are opportunities for growth. Our perfectionist kids and perfectionist teens are really benefited by experiencing failure, and growing past it.

So below are a few recommendations to try out with your kids (or yourself!)

  1. Make meaning: find something that you can do differently next time, or incorporate this failure into your view of yourself not to someone who fails, but as someone who responds well to challenges and gets back on their feet.
  2. Use it as an opportunity to invite feedback: Rather than just accepting a poor grade or poor performance report, elicit feedback from your teacher. This helps to give you an actual plan on how you can do better next time.
  3. Recognize that failure helps your brain.:Growth mindset as a concept is really huge and schools right now, because it deals with how failures make you smarter. If you succeeded at everything, or if everything came easily to you, you wouldn't be challenging your brain in new ways and building stronger connections and pathways.
  4. Deal with failure in the moment by taking a step back: Take a few deep breaths. Bring to mind other times that you bounced back from a failure. And maybe consider changing the words - from "failure" to "future opportunity."

Does your kid or teen have trouble with perceived failure? Maybe you'd even consider calling them a perfectionist. Kelsey specializes in anxiety and irritability for kids and teens from age 4 through college - and she knows how common it is for highly successful students to be secretly experiencing anxiety. She can be reached at compassionatecounselingstl@gmail.com. Kelsey's office is located in St. Louis, MO, and she works with kids and teens from Webster Groves, Brentwood, Creve Couer, Town and Country, Ladue, Clayton and surrounding areas.