Failure. It’s painful but necessary. My kids are being reminded of this again this week. We are at a National Tournament at Milligan for Bible Bowl and after a year of sweeping our Round Robin, we weren’t slaughtered, but we definitely didn’t even get close to winning. Teaching our kids to lose and fail gracefully without losing heart  ( or their mind) is an important life skill. 

Winston Churchill said, ” Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” 

There are a couple of ways to help teach failure. 

1. Spelling Tests – by second or third grade, kids should be taking spelling tests. Both of my boys really struggled with this.  We talked about the fact that since Jesus was the only perfect person, I don’t expect perfection and neither should they. We discussed the fact that school is about learning and getting everything right the first time, isn’t learning.  Still my boys struggled with failing anything so, being the ever compassionate Mom, I told them we were going to start taking a test ( math, spelling, whatever) every single day until they could handle them appropriately.  

2. Correcting all wrong answers – I continually have my kids correct any and all answers they get wrong and remind my kids that it’s not about the grade, it’s about the learning. It also helps to show them that we are not going to stay in failure but learn from it and accomplish more next time. 

3. Let them fail – I know this is really hard.  It is brutal, however the small failures that our kids may fail in now do not compare to the possible failures in the future. If you set a due date for a paper, keep to that due date.  If they lose a letter grade each day the paper is late and they can’t go to a party they wanted to until that paper is turned in, keep strong and let them fail.  The lesson learned will be a far greater life lesson than  any paper. Instead of going through their bag to make sure they have everything they need for piano, make a checklist and put them in charge of it.  If they forget something, don’t save them, especially if it’s just a lesson ( a recital may be a different ballgame). Let them fail.

4.  Teach them self-control.  Oh, how I wish parents would teach this when their kids were little.  This week alone, I have seen several kids who don’t know how to use self-control and they throw the teen version of a temper tantrum. When they are young, play games, lots of games and model good sportsmanship.  If they win tell them to say, “Good game, thanks for playing” to each and every person playing and then have the winner reset or put the game away.  If they lose,  have them say, ” Good job” and then shake the winner’s hand.  If they start to cry have them go to a quiet corner until they can get self-control and then they need to come back to the winner to tell them good job.  For kids in the corner, have them hold their hands clasped in their laps ( we call these self-control hands) until they gain self-control.  Don’t stop what you are doing while the child is in the corner, they need to  know that life is going on while they are getting self-control. 

5. Read and tell them stories of those who failed and kept going.  Like Thomas Edison who said, “I haven’t failed. I just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.” Abraham Lincoln tried many things that failed pretty spectacularly but he learned from each of those things and then used those skills later. Tell them stories of those that never gave up no matter the odds.  I tell mine that it’s fine to fail and fall but it’s not okay to stay and wallow in that failure.  Take a moment to acknowledge the hurt then shake off the dirt and move on. 

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