parent by design:

day 18: how to embrace failure

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. - C. S. Lewis

fear of failure

Failure is a big one alright.

It touches one of the deepest fears that we have- the ‘fear of not being good enough‘ and this is a real problem for our kids for two reasons:

  • 1
    It holds them back and stops them from ‘going for things’- you might even recognise this trait in yourself :).
  • 2
    It helps to cement a ‘fixed mindset’ – your kids see failure as a destination rather than a temporary stopover and they become less inclined to work harder or to change strategy to get the results they want.

So, if we want to help our kids overcome this fear, we need to help them to see failure in a different light altogether.

let them experience failure

This is a really quick win.

Next time your kids ‘screw up’ regardless of how tempting it might be to step in and ‘help’- don’t.  By ‘helping’ you are actually depriving them of a valuable opportunity to learn to solve the problem themselves. By all means, ask questions to help stimulate their solution(s), but, allow them to come up with their own answers.

But as you’ve probably already guessed, over at Lifehacksforkids towers, we like to do things a bit differently, so, every week we play something we call…

the failure game

We got this idea from an article we read about Spanx creator Sara Blakley.

If you don’t know her story, check it out, she is the personification of resilience and grit, and she attributes a large part of her success to her attitude towards failure.

She developed this attitude thanks to her father, who when she and her brother were growing up, used to ask them what they’d failed at each week.

If they couldn’t think of anything then he’d be disappointed, but if they had failed at something, he used to celebrate and give them a high-five! He would then asked them what they had learned from the experience.

This is a brilliant idea that works in three ways:

  • 1
    He systematically desensitised them to failure by exposing them to it on a regular basis.
  • 2
    He reversed the normal reward system, so failure was celebrated as a success and not having failed was in fact, a failure.
  • 3
    He taught his children to re-frame their failure as a learning opportunity. He would ask them to tell him about their failure and then they would write down what they had learned from their experience.

We love this idea, in fact, we have Failure Fridays in our house where we ask the kids each week what they failed at and most importantly, what they learned from it.

We have a failure book where we write these experiences down, so the kids know it’s important and they have a record.


We are only interested in framing failure in relation to the kids trying or going for something.

It’s about something that they did or didn’t do… it’s not about them, their person or personality. We don’t want to turn this into an exercise in self-flagellation. So we devised a sequence of questions to help frame this the right way:

  • What did you ‘fail at this week?’
  • How is that a failure in relation to you ‘trying’?
  • What did you learn?
  • What will you do to improve next time (make it simple- just one thing)?

Teach your child that FAILURE is not attached to the outcome but instead to not trying