12 Practical Tips To Help Your Child Deal With Failure


March 2, 2020

how to help your child deal with failure

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Does your child ever struggle with feelings of ‘failure’? From exams to sports, or even family board games, your child may feel they have failed or that they don’t measure up. These top tips to help your child deal with failure from P.R. Smith, Irish author and founder of The Great Sportsmanship Programme, show you how ‘failing’ can spur greatness.

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In today’s competitive world, the pressure is on from a very young age for everyone to do well in work, sport, school and socially. It can be a weighty burden to carry, but is particularly tough for children.

The secret to surviving and coping with all of the pressures we face is best instilled in a child by their parents, when the child is young. But how can you do this?

Our natural reaction is to protect and shield them as much as possible, to carry the worries and concerns on their behalf, but this can actually do your child a disservice. Learning how to deal with failure is a crucial step in growing up, something that actually gives your child the building blocks to succeed.

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Tips to Help Your Child Deal With Failure

First, it’s important to remember that everybody fails – all of us! We all fail at different things at different times in our lives. The most successful scholars, sports stars, business people, and politicians will all have failed at some stage. By encouraging your child, you can use their perceived failures to help your child to grow and find their way to a happy and contented life.

These tips will help you to help your child, your teenager, or even yourself when dealing with failure.

#1. You Can Learn From Failure

Ask what have you learned? Understand what went wrong and come up with solutions to help move forward. In every failure there is the potential for learning.

Take a minute to watch this video which describes how failure can be “a platform for self-education and you can build from it, you can learn from it and you can go on from it. Then, the experience, instead of being negative, can become positive and you look at it in a transformational way.”

#2. Look At the Positives

Encourage your child to find the positives that are in every situation by chatting about the experience together. Perhaps they didn’t win the match but scored a goal, or they didn’t get an A on the test but did score higher than the last time.

Whatever the situation, they may not have achieved the desired outcome, but there will have been smaller learnings or achievements along the way.

#3. It’s OK to Feel Sad

It’s ok to feel sad, but it’s also important to accept the defeat or loss and move on.

We have all heard the saying ‘don’t be a sore loser’ and it’s true – if you are playing sports, take your defeat, smile and congratulate the opposition. In fact, whether you win or lose, always shake hands afterwards – that is what the true greats in any sporting field do.

#4. Don’t Blame Others

Don’t blame others or make excuses for your failures. Take responsibility, own your mistakes and learn from them.

In a team environment, like sports, any win or loss is for the team. If your teammate misses a goal in the final minute, the loss is not his/her fault and there should be no blame given. Just as you would want to celebrate the win if they had scored, so you should accept the loss as a team.

#5. Everybody Fails At Some Point

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison, American inventor of the light bulb

It might not feel like it to your child at the moment, but everybody fails at something sometime. We share some examples of famous ‘fails’ below that your child might be interested to read.

#6. Failure is Usually Not Fatal

Mistakes were made, but life goes on.

#7. Real Winners Try Their Best

If your child can honestly say that they tried their best, then they are real winners –regardless of whether they win or lose.

Remind your child of this regularly, particularly in advance of high stress times like tests, sports events, etc. All any of us can ever do is our best – no one can ask for more.

#8. Believe in Yourself

Who you are is much greater that this one failure. No matter how big it may seem right now, you can and will go on to bigger and better things.

#9. “It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose…”


This very apt quote from Newbolt says it well – how you conduct yourself is much more important than the result. You can click here to download your copy. Give it to your child to remind them of what is really important.

#10. Ask For Advice

Remember, failure gives you a chance to either try again or try something new. Just because it didn’t work this time doesn’t mean you should give up.

Remind your child they can ask you, their teacher, coach or someone more experienced for advice, and then listen to improve.

#11. Continue to Challenge Yourself

Success is different for everyone, so have your own goals and targets in mind. Often, you need to put yourself out of your comfort zone to reach your full potential. See yourself as a risk taker rather than a failure.

#12. Never Stop Trying

Failure can make you a stronger, better person so long as you learn from it and put the learning into practice.

The most important thing to remember, and to remind your child, is that it is far better to fail trying than to fail to try.

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10 Inspiring People Who Turned Failure Into Success

Abraham Lincoln how to turn failure into success

Many notable people from all walks of life have failed at some point – and then used that failure to motivate them onwards to greatness. Sharing some of these stories may help your child deal with failure and feel inspired to move on.

Walt Disney
 was fired from a newspaper for lacking imagination and having no original ideas. His first company also went bankrupt before he went on to create one of the world’s most recognised brands.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 major British publishers when she first pitched the idea of what would become the world’s biggest publishing success story. She once tweeted: “I wasn’t going to give up until every single publisher turned me down, but I often feared that would happen.”

Abraham Lincoln failed twice in business and was defeated in six state and national elections before being elected President of the United States.

Michael Jordan, arguably the world’s greatest basketball player, missed 26 winning shots and once said: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Rugby player, Mathew Tait won his first cap at 18 years of age when he was described as “the future of English rugby”. Surprisingly, he was dropped after that first game and his dream was destroyed. His bubble burst but he picked himself up, kept going and went on to win 38 caps.

Albert Einstein, arguably the world’s greatest scientist, couldn’t speak till he was 4 years old. His teachers said he’d “never amount to much”.

The late, great George Best failed when he was 16 – he was the only player in the squad not to be selected in the Northern Ireland schoolboy team. He didn’t give up and went on to be one of the greatest footballers in the world.

Sir Alex Ferguson failed to win anything with Manchester United for his first four years as their manager. He eventually went on to win 13 league titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 1 Club World Cup and 2 Champions League Titles.

One of the world’s most successful authors, Dr Seuss, had his first book And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, rejected 28 times. He went on to create some of the biggest bestsellers and children’s favourites for generations, including The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, Oh the Places You’ll Go, and more.

At age 11, Lionel Messi was cut from his team after being diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency which made him smaller in stature than most kids his age. He went on to become a football superstar.

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Need More Inspiration? Check Out The Great Sportsmanship Program

the great sportsmanship programme Kayla Montgomery

The Great Sportsmanship Programme is an inspiring programme that helps kids and teens read more, play more & respect more. They offer schools and clubs a 6 week programme that helps inspire, boost literacy, nurture an interest in sport and increase self-esteem & positive thinking. If you think your school or club would be interested then you can find out more and get in touch here.

Have you any further tips to help your child deal with failure and turn it into success? We’d love to hear from you in the comments box below. 

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