Teach Your Kids to Fail Properly

One of the most difficult things in life to get over is failure. Failure stings, depresses, oppresses, and creates discouragement. It is very hard to get back on that horse and try again if we are never properly taught how to fail properly. Is there a proper way to fail? I argue there is. I guess it would be considered more a strategy on how to handle failure or a paradigm shift in regards to thinking about failure. However, instead of me pontificating about this shift, I am going to let Disney express my thoughts:


I love this movie and its sentiment about success. No one understood this principal more than Walt Disney himself when he couldn’t find a lender to help him build Disneyland. I believe the legend says he went to over 300 lenders and got laughed out of many of them…all were rejections and abject failure. But he “kept moving forward” and finally someone gave him money to buy a lot of acres in Anaheim California. The rest is history.

As parents who teach their children it is important to set a good example of handling failure as well as instructing on how to handle it. I don’t do as good as I should (oh look, another failure) but I try to keep going in spite of failure, take a step back, readjust, and try again. We need to teach our kids the failure hurts but its not really failure. It’s more of a trial and error try. “You found a way it didn’t work, get over it, take a step back, readjust, and try again”. The only real failure is to quit.

Now, you may find what your doing isn’t possible, wanted, or available. However, this isn’t failure. This is a discovery that what you had set out to do is a waste of time, it is a success! This “failure” will allow you to now concentrate your efforts on something else that could be “successful”. Sure the effort, time, money, etc. may seem like a waste. I am thankful that Edison found 1000 ways the light bulb didn’t work because we wouldn’t have the light bulb today, nor would that tenacity have produced the phonograph or even technology to lead to recording moving images. Imagine, without Edison’s “moving forward” mentality we wouldn’t enjoy the modern day cinema. Teach your kids to keep moving forward on every endeavor no matter that consequences of “failure”.



Dottie likes a star. She only likes words that can be another word when spelled backwards.


11 thoughts on “Teach Your Kids to Fail Properly

  1. Woohoo! My hubby was right about the brain tease! I’ll have to let him know.

    Regarding the issue at hand… I like the clip you included; this is one of our favorite movies. Failing doesn’t have to be the end of the world. In failing you learn valuable lessons and determination. Just today, one of my daughters failed to execute a research paper properly and we took her back to step one. While at first she seemed very discouraged, we tried to encourage her to look at it from a “Robinsons” perspective. What did you learn? Now, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in the game.

    • Wow, a research paper is hard to start over again. I would have nearly died if I had to redo anything like that in my grad work. So much time devoted is very discouraging but you come out a better learner when you learn through fire.

      Out of curiosity, what style do you make her write in? APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian?

      • In all truthfulness; she was only at the rough draft stage. She was having a hard time sticking to the main thesis and kept adding additional ideas. I made sure to sit down and walk her through the outline and refine it a little, then we reviewed her note taking methods, and got her ready to restart her rough draft tomorrow. I’m confident that this little set back was a great lesson and that she will excel in the final paper.

        For this assignment she is using MLA format, as this seemed to be standard for most of our universities out here. I will perhaps have her rotate the format each quarter (next year), so that she learns them all. Which did you use the most when finishing grad work?

      • Rough draft stage is a bit easier. I found that MLA was popular in my high school. Then APA was popular in most of undergrad general education (and a little MLA) but in my field (Music) we use Turabian which is a branch off of the chicago style (or so I am told).

      • I was a piano major (but played sax in school too) but also trained as a band director so I had to learn most of the band instruments. I taught band for a few years in central California and then moved to Orange County to teach choir for a while.

  2. I happened on your twitter feed and then came here and love your blog! –esp. this piece on failing. One of the richest women in the world is the lady who invented Spanks. I heard her interviewed one day and she said her dad asked her every day after school, “What did you fail at today?” He wanted her to try new things and not worry about whether she succeeded. She said that was what gave her the courage to go for this new business that ended up being a huge success. Makes for quite a paradigm shift!

    • Thanks Laurie! I love that story. Do you have a link to an interview or something? How did you happen upon my twitter feed? (sorry, just some marketing info for myself so I can reach others)

      I looked at your twitter profile and saw that you homeschooled, how was your experience?

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