Failure is Important
Written by Douglas Sherrill
Everyone wants their child to do well and succeed. I get it. I am a father. I love seeing my kids do well. I am proud of them. This desire to succeed is an instinct that is deeply rooted in our DNA.
Parents live for their children's successes in games, sports, and academics. The more extracurricular activities a child has, the better. This concept is especially true in Asia. The current global emphasis on education and success is excellent. However, we have forgotten the other half of the learning process, failure. Parents should hope their child fails and fails often. Failure is where the learning takes place.
This concept may be hard to live, but it's true. Experience is the best teacher. Our kids have to learn that the stove is hot. Getting burned is a physical experience, and the learning is immediate. Other experiences require more work. There are lessons to be learned in making an error, failing a test, and losing game. These lessons are mental and require the reflective process to learn, grow, and improve. Parents and educators need to focus on this area.
Failing has gotten a bad rap. Our society wants to take it entirely out of the equation. We seem to need to protect our kids from the awful feeling of failure. We seem to believe that if our kids always succeed, they will always prevail. The truth is that we want our children to be successful. Yet, they have to know how to fail and how they reflect on their missteps.
Everyone is going to fall. How a child responds to failure is a great predictor of success later on in life. I fear that too many of today's kids won't know how to get up because we are always picking them up rather than asking them to stand up and try again.
It is at this point where teachers and parents come in. Making your classrooms and homes a safe space to fail is critical to children's success. We must allow them space where they can experiment, fail, and rise to try again. Helping kids reflect on failures may be the only space in their lives that allow for this vital process.
Creating this space and communicating it to parents is a hard task.
As an educator, I see parents who are willing to do anything to make sure their child is performing well. They will spend any amount of money. Put their child into countless activities and make untold sacrifices just so their child can experience success. As parents, we have all made this mistake. The truth is this; the best way for them to experience success is not more achievement but more failure. 'Failure' is a message that parents need to hear. Failure is a process of learning, and failure is where real growth and real learning take place.
After a child 'fails' at a task, it is helpful for an adult to help the child reflect on the event. Talk about how the process could have gone differently. Then you can discuss how these adjustments would have created other outcomes. Parents, as well as educators, need to make these 'reflection' talks with the children and students a habit. Adults also need to make it clear that failure and success are outcomes. Children often fail and then label themselves as a failure. Reflection helps kids break free from this cycle and allows them to untie themselves from the results.
Adults, let your kids fail. Let children lose the game. Your children will live. Ask your children and students to sit down and reflect on you how they could have improved and done something different. They won't thank us for this. In fact, as educators and parents, we may have to be the bad guy. At least for a while. But one day, students will be happy with their parents, and teachers let them fail and challenged them to go after the task again. They won't be happy with us today.
Douglas Sherrill is the Deputy Elementary Principal at St Paul American School. St Paul American School is located in the Splendora Housing development off of Thang Long Highway right outside of Hanoi on a spacious 15 acres of land.
St. Paul follows the CCSS Curriculum. We believe that children should have the opportunity to pursue their passions. St. Paul’s Beyond & Beyond + Programs are afterschool activities designed to offer a wide range of interest-specific classes. Beyond+ activities are high-quality activities provided by professional external service providers. For more information please visit their website https://stpaulhanoi.com or email us at [email protected]stpaulhanoi.com