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The word “failure” carries a weight of negativity in its meaning. You can’t even say the word, “failure” and smile. Entrepreneurs building start-up companies learn quickly that failure is a part of the job description and an opportunity to learn from mistakes, to do better, and change. In order to thrive as an entrepreneur, we need to help our kids see failure as fertilizer, adding to our growth and boosting our potential. In this article, we’ll explore the concept of failure as a valuable teaching tool for building resilience in our teens and younger children. 

Thomas Edison’s journey to inventing the light bulb involved over 1,000 failures. He famously remarked, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 1,000 ways that won’t work.” This perspective is crucial for kid entrepreneurs to understand: failure is not the end but a road bump to success.

The Power of Productive Failure

In an article from the World Economic Forum, we’re not shocked to read that researchers who studied the topic found that students were more successful when they had to solve exercises and problems BEFORE the teacher explained the concepts. Imagine walking into a history class and, instead of a lecture on the French Revolution, you’re faced with an 18th century French geography quiz. Sounds bizarre, right? Well, hold onto your berets – the WEF study suggests this “flipped classroom” approach, where students grapple with problems before learning the concepts, might actually be the key to unlocking better learning. Turns out, wrestling with concepts we only have basic knowledge of, before diving into the lesson, can boost our understanding, engagement and problem-solving skills. 

Demystifying Failure

To encourage our kids to accept failure as a stepping stone, we need to challenge the stigma surrounding failure. Young entrepreneurs will fail hundreds of times before succeeding and Young CEO Squad, an entrepreneurship platform for kids, recommends we reframe the word “failure” as a valuable learning tool for building resilience and achieving success. Addressing the negative associations with failure, such as fear, shame, and inadequacy, is crucial. By reframing the narrative, failure becomes a natural part of the learning process and a teacher. The Young CEO Squad blog provides parenting advice on how to change children’s perspectives on failure suggesting that, as parents, we model the behavior.

Benefits of Embracing Failure

Every stumble is a chance to learn, a glaring a spotlight on knowledge gaps we hadn’t noticed before. This newfound awareness guides us towards what we need to learn. For kids, these gaps can even open doors to be curious about new concepts, sparking their curiosity and turning them into problem-solving ninjas.

Overcoming these challenges isn’t just about ticking a box; it’s about forging resilience, the ironclad armor that strengthens resolve and sharpens problem-solving skills. But resilience needs a partner: grit. Grit is strengthening our resolve allowing us to keep facing adversity and bouncing back stronger each time. And amidst this dance of learning and failure, don’t forget the crucial role of innovation. By encouraging kids to take risks and experiment without fear, we unleash their inner alchemists, transforming failure into the process of creating. Finally, remember, every misstep is a lesson learned, a heap of insights waiting to be mined for future improvement.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Don’t just applaud the victory lap, cheer the whole marathon! Celebrate the small wins and consistent progress on the way to the final goal. Normalize missteps by creating a safe space where kids can openly discuss failure and turn it into a learning opportunity. Remember, you’re their most influential coach. Show them the power of a growth mindset through your own words and actions, proving that setbacks are just bumps in the road to incredible things.

Tools and Strategies for Parents

Encouraging open communication about challenges and setbacks is vital. Positive reinforcement should focus on praising effort, learning, and progress, not just successes. Problem-solving together becomes a valuable tool, guiding your child through analyzing failures and developing solutions. Acknowledging and celebrating small victories, no matter how insignificant they may seem, reinforces a positive and growth-oriented mindset.

To raise flexible kids and successful kids, parents need to redefine failure as a learning opportunity and fertilizer for growth in their young entrepreneurs. Embracing failure builds resilience, grit, and a positive mindset that is crucial for success.

As Edison’s journey teaches us, every failure brings us closer to success. Next time you find yourself consoling your child about a loss remember this quote: “I have not failed. I’ve just found ways that won’t work” and add “yet.”

About the Author
Suzanne Appel is the Founder of Young CEO Squad, an entrepreneurship platform and product line for kids age 8-12.

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