Did you watch the Olympics with your kids? I love the excitement, the pageantry, the incredible feats, and I have to admit it – the epic fails. Not because I want to see these hard working competitors miss out on their dreams, but because I know failing is a big part of success and I want my kids to know it too.
While most of our kids may never make it to the Olympics and experience that amazing spotlight and the pressure that goes with it, they still feel incredible pressure to perform. For some kids school can be like the Olympics. Kids who have always been at the top of their class can suddenly encounter a struggle whether it’s Algebra II, a teacher with whom they don’t connect or the rigors of AP classes.
One of my favorite resiliency examples from the Games was Shaun White (love him!). We all know his story. He had the opportunity to three-peat as a gold medal winner and he didn’t. The buzz about him and the pressure on him was enormous!
And he failed – big time. Dropped out of slope style and came in fourth in the halfpipe where he’s supposed to dominate. But what did we see? No temper tantrum, no blaming. He reacted with grace as he congratulated his competitor.
This kind of teachable moment is important to share with our kids, if only to remind them that everyone has setbacks. And how they deal with them, their personal resiliency factor will shape their character in a way that constant winning never could.
But how should we react to our child’s setback? You say nothing. Seriously. Give them a hug, tell them you love them and give them space.
In that moment, you are likely to say something that isn’t helpful and doesn’t help your kid learn how to fail. I don’t know what Shaun’s mom said, but I am going to bet it wasn’t any of these.
- Excuses. We all know the parents on the sidelines who start blaming the coach or the referee for a loss. This teaches your kids that someone else is to blame for a failure. Often, there is no failure. The other team was better. The test covered material they didn’t know. The other kid studied harder.
- Advice. They know what happened and what they did “wrong,” if you want to use that word. They didn’t study well or enough. They misunderstood the assignment. They were overconfident that they knew the information. They should have taken the SAT prep course. The advice can come later, but right now, it will fall on deaf ears.
- Platitudes. Even if you DO think they were the one who should have been chosen as team captain, lead in the play or class president, this is not the time to say so. It sounds like false praise.
So what can you do? Obviously, the hug and the “I love you.” Some extra grace at home never hurts whether it’s “ignoring” their backpack on the floor and unmade bed, or baking their favorite cookies.
As parents, we know that “this too shall pass.” And, kids who learn early on that failure is part of success, and develop that resilient attitude, will be so much better equipped to deal with the realities of their future lives.