Failing can Help you Succeed

“What’s the best piece of business advice you ever received? It probably came down to my father. When I was growing up, he encouraged us to fail. We’d come home from school and at dinner he’d say: ‘What did you fail at today?’ And if there was nothing, he’d be disappointed. It was a really interesting kind of reverse psychology. I would come home and say that I tried out for something and I was just horrible and he high-fived me.”

Sara Blakely, inventor of Spanx, in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek

Blakely went on to say in the interview that her father’s “reverse psychology” is what made her persevere when doors were slammed in her face during her quest to market her wildly successful undergarment invention Spanx.

This idea is reinforced in the book “The Resiliency Factor,” where authors Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte state that people who score high on the resilience scale are also willing to try things and believe that failing is a part of life.

Encouraging failure in our children in order to build resilience may seem counter-intuitive. However, it is not failure itself that develops an “I can handle this” attitude; rather, it is the parents’ support, empathy, and assistance after their children’s failure that is a major piece of the resilience road map. In other words, kids need to know that parents have their backs. Here are some suggestions to aid children in their quest to manage adversity:

  •  Help them brainstorm solutions to problems.
  •  Give them encouragement and recognize their past achievements.
  •  Allow them to express their emotions.
  •  Cultivate “realistic optimism” – a positive attitude combined with a realistic understanding of challenges.
  •  Model the behavior you want to see in your children.
  •  Believe in them and love them unconditionally.

Failure is not the end of the world, and in fact, it is inevitable. Resilience aids navigation through life’s many barricades, detours and roadblocks. Be your kids’ GPS.

By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator
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