In fact, some people are so fearful of failure that they’ll do anything to avoid it – even if it means sacrificing their careers, families, or worse.
Kids aren’t any different. In fact, for kids, especially kids with learning disabilities, its worse. There are plenty of opportunities for failure in school, whether it’s giving the wrong answer when called on in class, messing up a homework assignment, or bombing a big test.
For these kids – and plenty of grownups – failure means you’re a loser, a screw-up, and a hopeless imbecile. You’ll be lucky if you can get a job working as a NYC street sweeper.
Smart kids don’t mess up.
Underlying this whole mindset is the belief that smart kids don’t mess up. After all, if you’re born smart, why should you make any mistakes? Smart people get things right the first time.
The “real” smart kids are like Greek gods, unfailingly perfect in everything they do. They are the the worthy ones – special, more talented, and far above the mortals who are just a shadow in their wake.
Is success about learning, or proving you’re smart?
It’s report card time, and your best beloved has come home with his or her report-card clutched in one small hand. What’s the first thing you do when you open up the envelope?
Look at the grades, of course.
And from that long list of numbers and letters, your opinion of your child’s future is determined. If your child has aced it, you feel proud, content with your child’s ability to navigate in this decidedly difficult world.
But if your child has scored only average – or Heaven forefend below average – then prospects for a successful future dim. Suddenly you’re angry – at the teacher, your child, and yourself. You’ve been hit with a double whammy, because both you and your child have failed.
You’ve just ensured your child won’t succeed in school.
You’ve shown your child that success isn’t about learning, or becoming a better person than you were yesterday. It isn’t about overcoming challenge after challenge, despite the difficulties you may face. And it’s not about embarking on a journey where growing and developing are the destination.
Instead, you’ve guaranteed that your child will spend the rest of their school career trying to prove their smart. Time after time, your child will turn down any new chances to learn, if they feel it might be difficult. If they face a challenge, they’ll back down, rather than take the chance of failing.
Teach your child to succeed by celebrating failure: create a “Building My Brain” book.
Teaching your child to embrace failure means both you and your child need to change the way you view success and failure.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to start a “Building My Brian” Book. Here’s how you do it:
Explain to your child that every time they overcome a challenge, their brain gets bigger.
Discuss with your child how the brain works. You can use the following story to help younger children understand things better (If you like, you can either draw pictures or search images in Google):
Once upon a time there was a large village far away from everywhere. There were no big cities nearby, and so they were pretty much on their own. The people in the village were very close – most of them were related – and so when they grew up, most of them chose to stay in the place where they grew up.
As more and more children grew up, the villagers started to run out of space. No one knew what to do, because they all wanted to be with the friends and family that they knew and loved. In the end, a town council meeting was held, and it was decided that they would build a new village not far away.
The only problem was, that the only place that they could build a village was near a wild, overgrown field. If the people from the old village wanted to go to the new village, or the people in the new village wanted to get to the old one, they had to cross that field.
It was pretty hard at first. But each time a person went from one side to the other, a path was made. And each time someone went on that same path, the path got bigger. And so in the end many wide, flat paths crossed the field, and people were finally able to visit their loved ones easily.
Then explain to your child that their brain is like that field. Each time they do something hard, it’s like making a path in that field. The more hard things they do, the smarter they get.
Make the notebook.
Buy a spiral notebook, and let your child decorate the front and back cover if they like.
Write in the notebook each night before your child goes to bed.
Then, each night before your child goes to bed, they can tell you about the things they did that day that were hard, and what they did to try and overcome those challenges. Write it down in their notebook.
Feel free to add things on your own, and surprise your child in the evening by reading it to aloud to them.
Within a few weeks, your child will not only be raring to share their failures, but will also be great at finding solutions to those challenges.
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