In Handling Failure/Adversity, Parents' Role in Youth Sports

How would you like to give your kids a gift this holiday season, a gift that brings a ton of happiness with it and one that “keeps on giving,” generation to generation? What if you could provide your children with a “special tool” that would virtually guarantee a lifetime of success for them, a tool that they could then pass on to their children, your grand kids? What’s this gift of success? TEACH THEM HOW TO FAIL!

There is no question that how you handle failure will ultimately determine whether you’re successful in your life. The very best athletes, while hating failing with a passion, have learned to use their setbacks and failures as steppingstones to get to their dreams. They understand that failing is an integral part of the learning process so they accept it. They know that you don’t go from beginner to expert in anything without a healthy dose of failing in between. The very best understand that their failures provide them with very valuable information about what they did wrong and what they need to change/work on to get better for next time. In this way their failures become a critical part of the process of improving.

So how do you give your children the gift of success and teach them the importance of failing? The answer lies in your relationship to failing. How do you handle your own failures? Do you mercilessly beat yourself up? Do you let your setbacks knock you off your feet for extended periods of time? How do you respond to your kids when they fail or come up short? Do you get angry or show your obvious disappointment in them? Do you criticize them, ignore them or withdraw your love?

You teach your kids how to value and use failure by how YOU handle it, by modeling. Tell your children about your own failures and show them how these setbacks taught you certain important things that gradually led you to your own success. Encourage them to ask themselves, “What did I do wrong here and what can I do differently next time?” after failing. Respond to your kids’ failures with compassion, patience and understanding. Demonstrate, in your response to them, that you understand that failure is NOT a cause for embarrassment but a vehicle to ultimately reach your goals. If your kids get into emotionally beating themselves up after losing/failing, do the best you can to immediately interrupt this self-destructive habit. We learn nothing from our failures when we respond to them with self-directed abuse.

Remember, those who respond to failure with motivation and renewed determination to succeed will ultimate be successful. This can only happen if failure is viewed as something that’s normal, expected and an integral part of the learning process. Teach your kids that failure is feedback and feedback is the breakfast of champions!


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