All children may exhibit a fear of failure in regards to academic pursuits or competetive activities at different junctures in their life. But an overly obsessive fear of failure is one of the most crippling anxieties for kids to deal with. It can constrain a child’s potential or even keep them from trying in the first place, hindering how well they do in life.
Helping children overcome a fear of failure
- Take a close look at your own behavior. It’s almost impossible to find a child with a fear of failure that doesn’t in some way trace back to parental attitudes. Are you pushing them too hard to succeed? Do you demand perfection? Do you act hysterical or overreact when a child loses a game, strikes out, or otherwise fails at something? Children are masters at reading your verbal and nonverbal cues, and if your mannerisms make kids nervous, this often leads to anxiety about failing. (More detailed information on this subject can be found in our book: Raising Resilient Children, available on our website)
- Be sure to instill a healthy attitude towards failure. Explain that it’s not possible to succeed without failing, and most successful people fail over and over again before they finally get it right. Failing is simply a part of the learning process, and is nothing to be ashamed of. The only shame lies in not trying.
- Start a “quote of the day” routine with your family. Each day before dinner read a different quote on failure or perseverance. There are thousands of wonderful quotes out there, as well as inspiring tidbits about how failure can lead to success. This will help children develop a healthier relationship with failure.
- This fear is often related to a social phobia that revolves around embarrassment. So help your child understand that others don’t judge them nearly as harshly as they judge themselves, and that everyone has embarrassing moments from time to time. However, usually the only person who remembers it in a week is the person it happened to. Everyone else has moved on and forgotten.
- If all goes wrong, what’s the worst that could happen? Conduct thought exercises where they tell you their worst fears, and then help them see this outcome as A) Unlikely, and B) Survivable and something that can be overcome.
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