Children and Self-esteem: Do Children Need to Fail?

Why Children Need to Fail.       

That’s right, you read that correctly. Children need to fail occasionally. Not just for failure’s sake, but also for the lessons failure teaches each of us.

Think about it, how much do you really learn from doing something right the first time? I have learned my best and most important lessons from the times I have failed miserably. My failures made me want to understand what went wrong, and how to do it better. Failure fortifies us. When we fail we have to stop and ask ourselves, “Why did that happen?”

Failure teaches all of us that it is not the end of the world. Getting right back up and trying again is called persistence, and it is an important learned skill. Therefore we must provide opportunities for children to fail, and even encourage our children to risk failure.

As parents, we need to get excited about the possibility of our children failing, because if they are not failing, they are not risking greatness.

Imagine what your children would think if as they walked through the door after school each day you asked them with great enthusiasm, “What great thing did you fail at today?” Our emphasis must shift from having our children achieve perfection, which is impossible because perfection does not exist; to having them learn the art of pursuing excellence and greatness. Any time we are pursuing greatness, failure will be inevitable because our failures are our stepping-stones to success.

There are two illustrations that can help us understand the difference between perfection and greatness. Imagine a perfect pristine china figurine. That is how most of us see our children—perfect.

If that perfect porcelain gets bumped and loses a finger or gets its face chipped, it loses part of its perceived value. Falling, chipping, or breaking is perceived as greatly damaging, and diminishing in value. This is the damaging perception of perfection. Mistakes, failures, falling short—all are indications of our decreasing value. It’s nonsense frankly.       

Now consider a very different paradigm of greatness. We will use Michelangelo’s block of marble analogy. Michelangelo, when asked how it was possible that he could create such great beauty out of an enormous piece of stone, would reply that he simply chipped away everything that didn’t belong. Every chip, every break brought him closer to the greatness within. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see our children and teach them to see themselves as wonderful blocks of marble and it was their only job to sculpt themselves into greatness, chip after chip.

  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful to create an environment where your children were encouraged to be artists of their talents, where they were encouraged to take risks, stretch themselves, fall short, get up, and try again?
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful for you, as a parent, to allow yourself to celebrate your child’s small failures, because you recognize them for the wonderful opportunities they are?

This shift in paradigm would greatly aid our children in developing their “capacity to appreciate their own worth and importance, to behave with accountability, and to act responsibly toward others.

  • Hey here’s a thought, maybe we should consider grading students for their efforts toward carving out the greatness within them, not just for perfect parroting of information back to their instructors. Now that’s a goal I can get excited about.

Encouraging children to have a greatt™ attitude towards failure, and strengthening their ability to persist in spite of the inevitable stumbles and falls they will experience, is what The CAPABLES Parenting Tool & G.R.E.A.T. Child Development System™ was designed to do.

Get your Capables Parenting Tool and delightful toy to insure your child's success today.

Dawn Billings is the creator of the new Parenting Tool called CAPABLES and CEO and Founder of The Heart Link Womens Network, Trova Women Business Directory and Trova Small Business Directory. Find out more and buy Dawn's books Watch Dawn's parenting videos: best parenting videos

Dawn L. Billings, Entitled to Fail, Endowed to Succeed: America’s Journey Back to Greatness, DCB Publishing, 2003 (to order call 918-605-1492 or visit

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