Family and Parenting

Failure 101 – Lesson 2: Helping Your Child to Learn Through Failure

This is a continuation of the 4-post “Failure 101” series inspired by the Flying Dutchman’s challenge posed during the launch of Dads@Communities by the Dads for Life movement. Blogfathers! is not affiliated with MCYS, Dads for Life or the Dads@Communities initiative; we’re just publishing this because we thought the Flying Dutchman made a very good point and we want to see if we can follow up with a skeletal outline of what dads can do to teach failure. So all observations and opinions expressed within this series are very much the author’s own unless otherwise stated. And please, if you can add to this with your own thoughts and experiences, do share them with us in the comments.

You can read the first two pieces here:

Our previous article talked about getting your child into situations with an element of risk, where the focus of the exercise was to actually anticipate failure and learn from it as a buildup to success. There was also the suggestion of easing your child into social situations where helping your child deal with rejection might be a tricky concept for a dad to wrap his head around – I know it was for me.

Educational psychologist Kairen Cullen says that external group interaction will always carry the risk of rejection, but “the personal, emotional, and social resources, you’ve helped them to build up will help get them through.” During these situations, being there as a confidante, a source of comfort and a pillar of strength for your child will also help immensely.

The element of risk your child will bear is only one side of the story; helping your child through dealing with failure when it occurs is a whole new can of worms.

Being there for your child at the point where he or she has problems during social interaction also makes a great study for whether there are shortcomings for you to help your kid to address. Robin Nixon from Live Science has written an article with a guide to help you do just tha, along with a recommended approach to guide your child through dealing with awkward social situations. He writes, “Instead of reacting with anger or embarrassment to a child who, say, asks Aunt Mindy if her new hairdo was a mistake, parents should teach social skills with the same tone they use for teaching long division or proper hygiene. If presented as a learning opportunity, rather than a punishment, children usually appreciate the lesson.”

Of particular note are some of the recommended steps as prescribed by child social behaviour expert Richard Lavoie to help your child identify where the problems lie:

  1. Ask what happened, and listen without jumping to conclusions. You might need to egg your kid to reveal the full story, though, but the process will also help to calm the child down somewhat.
  2. Explain to your child what’s wrong with the picture, because kids are only able to tell when someone’s upset, but aren’t able to identify why.
  3. Help your child see how he or she has erred or missed (“If you were in the other kid’s shoes, how would you feel?”). Keep a calm, encouraging tone if you want to provide alternative solutions (“Maybe you could have done it this way” instead of “You should have done it this way”).

The social scenario is just one example out of many you can set up – or will encounter – as an opportunity to be there for your child when he or she needs you the most. Remember also that as a father, helping your child deal with problems also helps you to learn more about your child, and yourself; as a dad, you are as much a student of your child as you are your child’s teacher.

And whatever it is, don’t get pissed. That never helps.

Next: Lesson 3 – Don’t Get Pissed (Refer to Lesson 0)

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