How important is failure for success?

So, my 6 years old daughter and I were discussing a question paper which she had attempted and I saw that she had made some silly mistakes in straightforward questions. I do not bother too much about these performances but I wanted her to know so that she is careful next time.

Me: Baby,if you had just checked it once, you would have caught your mistake.

A: But, Mumma! Making mistakes is good. That’s how we learn.

Me: Who says that?

A : You!

As expected there was not much I could say after that except that making mistakes is good, but we should also try not to repeat those mistakes.

How important is failure for success?

This interaction made me very happy and also got me thinking. I am happy that she is not afraid of making mistakes, that she is not under pressure to do it all right every single time. I always tell her that it is good to try things and fail than never to try anything for fear of failure. I am glad that she has understood that well, even though it sometimes mean she has to remind me of the same. 😀

The credit also goes to her school, which hasn’t taught her to compete with her friends. They encourage children to try and be better, learn from their fellow students, but they are not made to feel like failures if others are better than them.

This reminds me of another incident when she was 4 years old. She was in kindergarten then and we had gone to attend her sports day. We enjoyed the races thoroughly and I told her after the races that she performed very well. Pat comes the reply, “Mumma, all my friends did very well”. I was amazed and of course very proud. There were certificates for all children and there were no winners or losers.  Each child was encouraged by their teachers and fellow students to finish the race, however long it took. What a great way to teach little kids that it doesn’t matter whether you finish first or last, as long as you finish it and not give up mid way.

Unfortunately, in our society a child’s success is measured by her achievements and children do not have the luxury of failing and learning. They are expected to excel at everything, from academics to sports to dance and music, as well as arts. We, as parents want to create the best possible specimen of human race. In school, children have to compete for every single mark. Now, the kids do not just have to compete with the 20-25 kids in their class, but everyone their age across the world. There are global competition for even nursery kids, where they can display and prove their genius.

And, the result of all this is often times that kids are not able to handle even the smallest of failures. Only a few month ago, I heard of a girl who committed suicide because she did not score as well as she had expected in her 12th exams. She was a school topper and an achiever by every stretch of imagination. It makes you think if we as parents, as teachers and society are failing our kids.

Why can’t we tell them that it is OK to fail? Have we not made numerous mistakes and still managed to make a decent life for ourselves.
Why can’t we tell them that it is OK to make mistakes and every time you fall, you can get up and try again. So many examples come to mind. Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Chef Vikas Khanna and many more. They have all failed many times before going on to do stuff which nobody could even think of. Rovio Entertainment of the famous Angry Birds, had 51 unsuccessful games before the runaway success, which has been downloaded billions of times.

No failure is FINAL, till the time you give up.  Every time you fail, it is an opportunity to do something BIGGER, something BETTER the next time.

Loved this video about the Falling Test, where it is so visible that kids are naturally inclined to not give up and keep trying, but it is the societal conditioning which changes them over the years.

 

This article is in collaboration with Surf Excel #HaarKoHarao campaign, which encourages parents and society to look beyond temporary failures. They believe children are fearless and do not fear failure till we tell them to. Of course, I agree to this completely. What’s your take on this?



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9 Responses to “How important is failure for success?”

  1. Especially with single kids like my daughter, they hate to lose. It’s so important that we teach them to fail gracefully too. Wonderful post and initiative

    Reply
  2. Megha Gopan

    I loved the last sentences in the ad when a child says ” Bade hokar ek hi chance milta hai” and the other one sneers ” hain, kaun bola” 😀 😀 The intricacy of human life is depicted in a nutshell!It is absolutely true that children are never aware of even the word “failure” unless and until we present it to them in some form or the other.At the same time, as they grow, they themselves also start realizing the importance of success owing to their peer reactions to failures.Even my child, for eg, hates to fail even though I have never pressed her to succeed.She would try maximum one time and if it doesn’t work, she howls and gives up!I have no idea from where she got the intuition that one can be right just once and it has to happen the very first time!!
    We, as parents, need to constantly reinforce in our kids that success and failure are part of our life and it all depends on how we take it.We should ourselves be careful about how we handle our own failure in front of kids.Children pick up nuances from their surroundings so it is our duty first to help them overcome their fear and imbibe in them the spirit of trying again.Mistakes do happen, we learn from mistakes and we should learn not to repeat those mistakes but even if mistakes happen still, we shouldn’t stop trying 🙂

    Beautiful post Shishuworld!An eye-opener <3

    Reply

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