Let me start by saying, I am NO parenting expert. Yes, I have three children of my own, I think I have done a pretty good job, so far, but it’s still early! What I am an expert on is how children learn. I have studied it my whole life and have worked with children of every age and ability. One of the biggest mistakes we as parents can make is not teaching our girls to fail…like ever! Think of how we learn to walk, ride a bike, do a science experiment? Failure of some fashion is a part of us becoming successful.
In a recent study, test scores, status in life, nor education, were the best predictors of success. It was “grit” that proved to be the best predictor. “Grit” being defined by the skills of perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism and self-control. These traits are what allow an individual at any age to learn to move through the world effectively.
Girls begin to show signs of being hesitant to “put themselves out there”, or try new things starting in Middle School. This is the age when failure becomes, something, in their eyes, to avoid at all costs. As parents, we need to be teaching our girls to fail, or at least stumble and maintain their self-esteem and confidence. The world is experienced through trial and error.
Our job as parents is to raise, independent, self-reliant adults, that hopefully contribute in some way to the society or community that they live in. They need to practice to make this happen. If we don’t leave room for our daughters to fall, how will they learn to get back up? When they do not make the volleyball team, shouldn’t we encourage them to try out for softball as opposed to calling the coach or school to ask why? Does it matter why? No, what matters is they tried, and they should try again.
Find ways to celebrate the failures as great attempts and courageous behavior. For example, as we look towards the upcoming Oscars, how many of the nominees were chosen for every part they auditioned for or the directors for making a remarkable film at every attempt? We can use these moments to show our daughters that the ones celebrated are the ones who have failed before us. Every great athlete or scholar is driven by their losses or failed theories, and it gets them that much closer to the championship or solution.
At Camp Lantern Creek, we celebrate failure with a cheer. We do this to encourage girls to take the chance and to teach her peers to support the attempt and be encouraging as well. Our activity choices are made at home at the time of registration as well as every morning at breakfast so that each day, the camper can try something new if she wants to. For some campers, it might be enough to dress up in a crazy costume for a themed day, but for another young camper, it might be standing on stage and singing in front of a group.
We train our staff to find the moments of frustration or fear, which leads to the growth. For example, a young 8-year-old camper signed up to do a talent show and sing but was intimidated by the audience staring at her. A counselor went up with her and sat right in front of her on stage so she could look at her face and not all the others. It worked! She got through the song! Will she do it again? It doesn’t matter! The crowd went wild!
It’s hard to watch our children not succeed, but if we remember that our daughter learned to walk, by falling every few steps, perhaps we can try to encourage them to fail gracefully and be persistent.
We have an amazing Mother Daughter Weekend coming up at Camp Lantern Creek, March 4 – 6, 2016, where you can teach yourself and your daughter to fail and celebrate those failures with equal successes! To register for this amazing weekend, click here!