Here’s how to help your child overcome their fear of failure. Here is another helpful phrase to help your child overcome their perfectionism.
No mistakes allowed.
If my son thought he was going to get a wrong answer he would rather quit the game and start over. Without intervention, he allowed himself 0 mistakes before crying, melting down, or getting angry.
One try and it didn’t work… tears.
One other person does it the first time… jealousy.
These are the struggles of a budding perfectionist.
While I know many personalities and temperaments (particularly this one) are prone to perfectionism, this is something I actively discourage in my children. Perfectionism robs you of joy, drive, and the ability to finish what you start.
Perfectionism also tends to create then foster these emotions or feelings:
- lack of trust in one’s self
- anxiety (and living inside one’s head)
These are not character flaws, no they’re not, they are simply by-products of living in fear of failure.
By fearing failure we’re not talking about simple butterflies or nervousness, but the stronger fear that keeps a person from doing what they feel they should do, or even what they want to do.
I was reading a business book about how failure actually teaches us, helps us grow, and allows us to begin trusting ourselves.
One case study cited the manager of a company and how he encouraged his employees to really dig into new work without fearing they’ll screw up.
He used this phrase…
“You’ve got 30 mistakes to make.”
Then, he said, if someone asked “What happens when we use all 30 mistakes?“
“Well,” he said, “you get 30 more.”
This is the crux of it.
We can make a lot of mistakes and be okay. So can our kids.
Why This Phrase Works
Ultimately this phrase is a psychological winner. It sort of bypasses that switch or scenario that says “need to do things right.”
Here are some reasons you should consider making it a regular phrase in your home.
Your Child Learns Failure is Okay
In virtually all success and business literature that references failure, it’s with a positive focus. Yes, failing sucks. But guess what?
Failing is one of the best learning experiences, and nearly all super successful people can cite numerous failures that led them where they are today.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy
We are human. We cannot be things perfectly. To assume we can – even in a child’s young immature mind – creates an unrealistic expectation. And, as we know, expectations can lead us into bitter disappointment when unmet.
Your child needs to mess up and they need to mess up a lot. Over and over again. As they do they learn a few things:
- failure isn’t terminal
- you can deal with the disappointment of messing up
- people still love you if you aren’t perfect
Your Child Learns Failure Isn’t Final
Many children who tend towards perfectionism have a real honest fear that messing up will mean they are somehow less of a person.
That a B will forever set them back. That not being the best or the first will make them less likeable, loveable, or somehow on the outside.
“Giving up is the only sure way to fail.” – Gena Showalter
Kids need to learn to mess up. They need to learn how to navigate frustration. They need to understand that they are Human and Humans Mess Up.
We mothers must learn to not act like things are The End of The World. This may mean we need to get a grip on our emotions and that is very hard.
Your Child Learns to Feel the Feelings of Failure
Part of the reason we humans are scared of many things is that our emotions and feelings are so strong we feel out of control.
We are afraid to fail because we’re afraid we’ll feel bad. We’re afraid to not be perfect because we don’t want to feel “not good enough” or inadequate.
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.
Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
By using the phrase, “you have 30 mistakes to make” or something like it, you’re encouraging your child to try, fail, embrace the failure, learn from it, and keep moving.
Here are some situations this phrase works:
- When a child is learning to read | They may get discouraged if they get a few words wrong in a row, but you can say, “Keep reading, you have 30 mistakes to make, you better get a move on!”
- When learning a new physical skill | The other day I was teaching my 4 year old to drive the golf cart (with me in it and we live on 20 acres so don’t send me hate mail) and he was having trouble steering straight and getting angry. I said “You have 30 mistakes to make and I won’t let you hit a tree” and lo and behold, he started laughing and counting his mistakes and after 5 minutes he was completely comfortable.
- When completing a project | Projects, whether craft, experiments, building, or even stacking or creating something, these situations can seem over whelming. Give your child a chance to mess up by saying, “You have 15 mistakes so let’s just explore and see what happens.”
For children who tend towards perfectionism, you must make a great effort to not make a big deal about mistakes. To help lessen their blows.
To get your child used to (appropriate) disappointment. They struggle with their own perfectionism and as much as we can, we need to help them learn that…
Failure isn’t fatal.
Failure doesn’t mean you can’t succeed.
Failures is just one step along the way.
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