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Have you ever wondered why children often shift from believing they can do anything at the age of four to becoming afraid to take risks by the age of 8?

Developing a fear of failure is common during the elementary school years as kids often face their first disappointments – not doing well on a test, striking out with the bases loaded, not winning a competition, etc.

Here are two common reasons children may develop a fear of failure and how you can help them avoid these pitfalls.

1. Fitting in. When children fail, one of their biggest fears is being branded a “loser” or being teased by other children.

Teaching your children how to treat themselves when they experience failure can teach other children how to treat them as well.

For example, if your child “beats himself up” with words like, “I’m such a loser” or “I’m such a failure” other children might respond in the same way. But if he handles failure with confidence, using statements such as “Man that didn’t work – I’m not going to do that next time” or “Boy I goofed that one – I’ll do better next time” other children will be less likely to criticize him. 

2. Disappointing grownups. Children also don’t want to disappoint the grownups in their lives – especially those they look up to such as parents, teachers, and coaches. Need for approval is a strong driver for young children.

How you respond to failure – both your own failures and theirs, will have a huge impact on how they respond to failure. If children see you beat yourself up when you make a mistake, they will think that they should respond the same way. On the other hand, if they see you manage your failures in a way that makes you stronger, they will see that disappointments and failures aren’t the end of the world.

How you respond to their disappointments and failures is also critical. If you get down on them, ground them, or yell at them for not doing well, they may become afraid of failing for fear of getting in trouble again. A more effective strategy is to let them deal with the natural consequences of the situation while you coach them through it. Help them see the failure as an event and not who they are. Then work with them to learn from it and let it go.

See the article, Disappointments Stink! Unless You Know How to Learn from Them and Let Them Go, for more tips on how to do this.

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