Giving children space to fall, fail, and learn on their own.
One of the most important things we can give our children is permission to fail. The understanding that failure is not the end of the story.
I have worked with foster youth in South LA and most recently with teens in Beverly Hills. I had some preconceived notions of what to expect working with the latter and boy, was I surprised. I have never seen a more stressed-out generation of young people. Hours upon hours of homework, stress about test scores, pressure to join extracurricular activities.. and it seems like the pressure starts younger and younger for these children.
I can’t even imagine what that kind of pressure to “succeed” is doing not only to their anxiety and stress levels (which effects overall health and well-being), but what it does to their sense of self, self-confidence, and overall JOY.
One of my favorite elements of growth mindset development is the emphasis on effort, over natural ability. Acknowledging the effort that one puts into something, instead of just succeeding, or being “good” or being a “natural” or “talented.” All of those labels put an unspoken pressure- to keep it up, to be perfect, to maintain interest in that subject, and to not fail.
When a child experiences failure, we teach them how to respond by our own reaction and communications (both verbal and nonverbal).
We model for them the best response.
We tell them, “Hey, it’s okay.” We encourage reflection. We ask what they could do different to perhaps get a different result. We support and acknowledge their feelings of frustration or disappointment. We share experiences where we too have failed; and how we persevered. How we tried again, and maybe again and again. We remind them that success isn’t the most important part. The most important parts are for them to ultimately decide. But it might be the joy they experience. Or the growth. Or something they learn. Or how they get better or understand a little more each time they try.
Failure is just a part of the process. It means we took a risk. We dared to try. We were courageous. We can even celebrate our failures. We definitely do at Camp. Often in our reflection circles, campers will share wins, wishes, & fails- to help normalize the experience of failing. It’s important to recognize that sometimes the experience of the failure is more valuable or meaningful than the win. It’s just a matter of gaining that perspective & learning to feel good about the process.
You can read more about the Wildfolk Way here.
Until next time...
Be YOU Out There,