Quick! Which one of these sentences sounds more encouraging?
You can be anything!
Obviously you’d choose the first one. It’s way more affirming.
…but aren’t they really saying the same thing?
There are so many opportunities out there! Don’t waste even just one of them.
Do what I didn’t have the chance to do.
People fought hard for you to be able to do all of this.
Both statements add considerable weight to a young pair of shoulders…a lot more than a simple pat on the back.
Scholarships and trophies aren’t given to those who fail, and parents of the failed definitely don’t look impressive…at least that’s what popular culture tells us.
Somewhere along the way, our good intentions became instructions to do it all, which in turn, can cause burnout, anxiety, and stress. If a six-year-old needs time to de-stress – we’ve done something wrong.
An article published in TIME magazine delves deeper into this concept of failing safely, and why failing at all is more detrimental to girls than boys.
The research shows that when girls make mistakes, they’re more likely to interpret the setback as a lack of their own ability – a factor that’s out of their hands. Boys, however, are more inclined to chalk a failure up to more controllable circumstances – showing themselves more grace and flexibility in the process.
An increase in parent control and navigation of their kids’ lives could mean that a girl might not ever experience a failure, and therefore, have no idea how to deal when one happens. Researcher and speaker Brene Brown asks, “When that moment comes, am I willing to sit with her and not fix it?”
She challenges parents to let kids feel the sting of failure and learn to overcome it. Even when parents can fix something, she sees more value in teaching kids to feel the actual emotions failure produces. “Teaching them how to get curious about it, teaching them how to name it, teaching them how to ask for what they need,” she says. “That’s the gift that parents give.”
There’s a 100 percent chance that a girl will fail at SOMETHING in her lifetime. If she knows what emotions to expect, how to deal with them, and how to constructively move forward – it’s more of an opportunity than a crushing blow to the ego.
So how do you set up a good environment for failing safely? Here are a few ideas:
- Be a caring and non-judgmental adult who doesn’t reward with empty and unconstructive praise.
- Create a fun, playful atmosphere that maintains perspective and purpose with a sense of humor.
- Foster a diverse and inclusive environment that encourages individualism, unique talents, and a sense of mutual respect.
- Agree on appropriate behaviors, “group norms” and accountability for all involved parties.
- Commit to full-blown integrity. This will encourage a group to do the right thing when no one is watching, and cultivate relationships built on authenticity.
And in the words of the great Winston Churchill:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”