Independent schools like MCS are competitive environments and our learners, parents and staff are under constant pressure to perform well. However, I am absolutely adamant that in the long run, for our learners to reach their full potential, they have to fail, and more importantly, they have to learn to overcome the fear of failure.
We all have different definitions of failure, simply because we all have different benchmarks, values, and belief systems. A failure to one person might simply be a valuable learning experience for someone else. But fear of failure (atychiphobia) is when we allow that fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals. It’s important to realise that in everything we do, there’s always a chance that we’ll fail. Facing that chance, and embracing it, is not only courageous – it also gives us a fuller, more successful and more rewarding life. When it comes to our children, we need to be even more courageous and realise that their failing is not the end of the world, it is no reflection on us, as long as we all learn from it.
I have mentioned renowned psychologist Carol Dweck before. Her favourite new word is, “yet”. You‘re not an A student yet! You‘re not in the 1st team yet! But you can be, even if you fail a hundred times before you get there. The trick, however, is to believe this as a teacher or as a parent and then encourage our child to believe it as well. If your child believes s/he has failed because s/he got 60% for their assessment or s/he scored 0 for their soccer match, try and look back and analyse the process. Do not assess the result. What did s/he do to get 60%? What can s/he do better to get 61%? If you help your child break down the process and s/he realises for themselves what s/he can do to improve, I have no doubt that s/he will. Remember, it is vital that s/he wants to improve for themselves, not for their parents or teachers and certainly not to be better than their peers. Perhaps while you are relaxing over the mid-term break, you can discuss with your child areas where s/he may feel s/he has failed and why, and then help them plan how s/he is going to improve.
The following YouTube clip of Michael Jordan on failure is well worth sharing with your child. http://www.youtube.com/watch?