From the Scholastic Bookshelf: How to Talk to Your Child About Failure

Failure is the opportunity to grow.

Jan 31, 2022



From the Scholastic Bookshelf: How to Talk to Your Child About Failure

Jan 31, 2022

At some point, your child will fail at something and face hang-ups like rejection that make them feel bad. 

While the raw feelings that come with failure are natural, it’s important your child embrace them, for these experiences will help them become resilient and persistent.

The more your child can bounce back after a tumble, the more equipped they’ll be in the face of more complex problems and adversity. Each lesson in failure is an opportunity to reflect, problem-solve, and try again.

Here’s a simple three-step approach for guiding your child through failure, and helping them see mistakes as learning opportunities:

1. Let failure happen. If your child is young, give them low-stakes tasks they can build experience around.

2. Embrace failure — and celebrate it. Show your child failure is acceptable in your household. This includes sharing mistakes that you make as an adult!

3. Discuss failure after it occurs. Ask your child what went wrong, how it made them feel, and what they would change or do differently next time. 

You can supplement these teachable moments with reading materials.

For its 100th anniversary, Scholastic spoke with experts to identify a set of tips, articles, and books that make starting a conversation with your child about failure easier. These resources are part of a broader initiative, called the Scholastic Bookshelf, created for Instagram to raise awareness around contemporary issues affecting children today.

The following resources will enlighten your child’s understanding of failure as a key component of success and support them on their path to personal growth.

For more quick tips and book recommendations, sign up for our Scholastic Parents newsletter!

Lessons on Failure for Elementary Schoolers:

The race to outer space is filled with trial and error that we can all learn from. “Lessons from the Launchpad” in Scholastic DynaMath magazine explores the rise of private space companies and their new technologies. But it isn’t perfection out of the gate: In March 2019, SpaceX’s new spacecraft, Crew Dragon, successfully docked at the International Space Station. The next month, another Crew Dragon exploded on the launchpad during a test. (Fortunately, no one was hurt.)

Failure is part of the engineering design process, says SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell. “People learn far more from their failures than they do from successes.”

“The League of Extraordinary Losers” brings us back down to earth for a look at what it means to “fail up.” This Scholastic Choices magazine article highlights several A-list athletes, tech innovators, and industry leaders who went from humble beginnings to household names. From Michael Jordan to Dr. Seuss, Steve Jobs, and Vera Wang, readers learn how some of the brightest stars on the planet worked through their early losses.

​​“Instead of focusing on the failure, you need to focus on the opportunity it presents,” says Madeline Levine, psychologist and author of The Price of Privilege, in the article. 

Lessons on Failure for Middle Schoolers (and Up):

Older is wiser, and older readers will appreciate the insights into teenage years found in “Dear Younger Me,” where three creative talents — a YouTube star, an author, and an athlete — pen open letters to their younger selves to share what they wish they had known then. The letters share a similar message: Don’t get in your own way. Resilience, hard work, and clear goals are a winning combo for tapping opportunity.

The pressure to succeed, especially at school, can create serious stress for children. In “How Can I…Keep My Cool?”— also from Scholastic Choices magazine — sports psychologist George Mumford offers his tactic for keeping calm and focused in the present moment. 

“Being overwhelmed is like having a computer virus,” says Mumford, who compares mounting anxiety to a computer freezing. So how do you stop yourself from short-circuiting? Focus on the present moment. Readers are given a basic lesson in deep breathing that allows them to redirect, refresh, and refocus. By mastering the ability to respond to stress calmly, you are better equipped to handle the hurdle at hand — and attack that pile of homework!

Be sure to visit the Scholastic Bookshelf for more resources on failure and other must-discuss topics.

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