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Head's Blog

If at first you don’t succeed…

Posted on December 01 2016

Can I pour your juice for you? Are you sure that’s the right answer? Leave that, I’ll do that for you! We ask our kids lots of questions each day in the hopes of avoiding minor messes and stained shirts, and because we want to build up their confidence. But here’s one question we should be asking instead: should I let my kids fail?

It’s a scary concept. As parents, and as educators, we want to see our children succeed in everything they do, whether it’s full marks in a spelling test, making the swimming team or simply making a sandwich without smearing peanut butter all over the kitchen (call me a big kid, but I do love a peanut butter sandwich!). And often, we try to push our children toward success with constant reminders and prodding, and we jump in to rescue them when we see a risk of failure. But is that more hurt than help?

All parents want to see their children succeed, but it’s just as important to teach them how to fail. That is something we cherish at Forest Park, preparing our pupils for failure as it helps them to succeed. Failing can be reframed as trying, practicing, and putting in effort — and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. After all, it’s unrealistic to be good at everything on your first attempt. Children who can’t tolerate failure are vulnerable to anxiety and it can lead to bigger problems when they do, inevitably, fail.

There is so much pressure on children today to be the best that it’s important that we, at Forest Park, let children know that failing will happen sometimes and that it is okay. In fact, it’s brave to try something new, knowing that it might not work out. Unfortunately, many of today’s pupils have received so much help from parents; be it with school projects or just basic life tasks that they become distraught over the most minor misstep. It’s important to remember that genuine self-confidence is created by being good at something, especially when it requires effort to get good at it. Shielding children from this process can create a fragile sense of self-worth.
This is why teaching a child to be resilient and rebound from a failure is so important. The ability to recover from a setback is one of the keys to a happy life. Being resilient doesn’t necessarily mean thriving in the face of failure; rather, it’s the ability to pick yourself up and put one foot in front of the other. It is not an inborn trait; it’s a combination of behaviours, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed.

Here are just some of the ways that we develop resilience at Forest Park:

Perhaps the most important thing we encompass at Forest Park is an ethos to step back and let a child stumble. We all want to protect children, but it’s important to allow them to fail rather than swooping in and fixing the problem.

In the words of Winston Churchill ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm’

Nick Tucker

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