How To Turn Failure Into A Learning Opportunity for Your Child

Posted by Heather Downing on Mar 3, 2017 3:00:00 PM

I saw a t-shirt that said, "mistakes are proof that you are trying." What a great quote! Making mistakes, or failing, is an inevitable part of learning something new. As a teacher, I don't want my students to be afraid of failure or mistakes. 

I want my students to figure out what led them to fail, then to go further.  How can they learn from it? How could they avoid repeating any mistakes the next time?

Most of us would agree that we learn more from our failures than from our successes. Yet when it comes to our children, most parents do their very best to shield their kids from any failure at all. Not only is protecting our kids unrealistic and impossible, we might actually be depriving them of important learning opportunities.

From my experience through teaching, I thought it would be helpful to share with parents some reasons why we should embrace failure and encourage our kids to look at it as an amazing learning opportunity.


It is important that children learn to persevere when they are challenged.  When faced with a struggle, we don't always see an immediate solution.  This happens frequently in learning math, and is also how science is studied.  When students learn the history of the greatest scientific discoveries and advancements - such as space travel and the light bulb - they will understand that perseverence, persistence, and tenacity will eventually lead to success.  I always teach students the acronym FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.  With our guidance, they can learn how to push through and not give up, and stay steadfast despite the difficulties. 

Often failure can assist children in discovering a new or different way to approach a problem or solution. The discovery of penicillin was an accident, which provides a great example of how the failure of one thing led to discovery, innovation, and success.  Given time to fail and space to create can allow your child to discover a new way to solve a problem (MATH = Mistakes Allow Thinking to Happen).

The more children fail, try again, and succeed, the less intimidating and frightening the fear of failure will be, especially in a safe environment where failure is not shameful.  Once kids learn that success can result from their failure, they might even become excited to take that leap of faith the next time around. In the future, they may not be discouraged when they don’t master it the first time out.

How will our kids ever know if they are good at something if they don't try it?  And if it's the first time trying, how can they expect to be good at it?  Our children need to to take risks! They need opportunities to fail and explore and discover!  This is how they will discover what works and what doesn’t work, what they like and dislike, and get excited about the discovery process that will follow.

Ed Catmull, Cofounder of Pixar Animation Studios said it very well, “We need to think about failure differently. I’m not the first to say that failure, when approached properly, can be an opportunity for growth. But the way most people interpret this assertion is that mistakes are a necessary evil. Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality).”

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Topics: Character Education