Losing Should Never Be Enjoyable. But Here Are 4 Things Kids Can Learn From Failure.

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
-Vince Lombardi

I want to make a something perfectly clear at the start. This article suggests four lessons that children can learn from failure. However, adults can grab something from it as well.  Simply put, anyone who challenges themself in life can learn something from failure, and from this article.

Regardless of your outlook on team sports and competition for kids, we should not be teaching our kids that losing can be enjoyable. Can it be beneficial? ABSOLUTELY! But never enjoyable, and a child should not be satisfied with it.

Here’s why. There are two things that children will learn about life as they grow into adulthood: 1. Life is very competitive, and 2. Life is not fair. Thus, they should learn to embrace the joy of winning at a young age. Likewise, they should become familiar with the not so great feelings associated with losing. Competitiveness can be a great trait in anyone. We use it everyday to achieve targeted successes throughout our lives. For this reason, children should be taught early on that it is ok to be competitive. We should not necessarily rely on the “as long as you had fun, that’s all that matters” mantra. Because if we do, we could be inhibiting their preparation for real life.

Now, before you get all 2016 on me and think “This is ridiculous. Kids should be focused on the process and having fun, not winning. Kids should focus on having fun and that’s it,” I am not claiming that winning is the only benefit a child can get from a competition. And I certainly don’t believe that. In fact, I am about ready to lay out some major benefits that children can actually learn from losing. But, they should not be satisfied with it.

What is losing and what is winning?  On the playing field, in the courtroom, or on the Monopoly board, winning can be measured. You either won the game or lost the trial. Period. Winning or losing life challenges are a little different, however. Success is defined differently. So who determines its meaning? The person seeking it does. In that regard, maybe your child simply needs to change their definition of success based on their desires and attributes. As an example,  maybe their idea of success in sports is or should be socializing, having fun, and staying active. And that’s fine. But if the success they seek is a little more than that, then here are four lessons that kids can learn from failure:

  1. What Can I Do Differently? Anytime a child experiences failure, instead of becoming depressed about it, have them ask themselves, “What could I have done differently?” On the basketball court, did your child play defense correctly? Did he or she follow through with the coaches plan? On the pitcher’s mound, did they lose focus too often? Identify any missteps in the performance, and learn from them for the next time.
  2. Did I Prepare Effectively? Preparation is dire in any stated goal or challenge. If a child fails, they need to think about whether or not they prepared effectively. Did they study enough for a test? Did they use the correct methods? Did they study the right material? Did they lose their golf match due to poor putting? Maybe they need to focus their practice more on putting? Determine what can be changed in the process of preparation, and do it.
  3. Did I Put Forth Maximum Effort? In competition, and in life, effort is everything. Failing can be a prime opportunity for the child to ask themself if they went hard enough to succeed? Sometimes to win, they need to go hard or go home. If they did that and still did not succeed, then it is possible that victory was outside of their control. And they only need to be concerned with what they can control.
  4. Is This the Goal I Truly Desire? Sometimes, maybe your child is simply going after an achievement that they do not want, or an achievement that they do not have a large enough purpose or reason to attain. Maybe they simply need to refocus and remember why they are chasing the success. Or maybe the never wanted it in the first place and there is something else to which they should be striving. Maybe they are simply seeking this particular achievement because it is your own goal for them. That is never a good thing and can lead to many failures and miscommunications.

As a final note, although your child should not be satisfied with failing, they must not let it bring them down or allow it to kill their dreams. I always try to tell my kids, don’t be satisfied with it, but learn from it and remember the feeling for the next time. There is no reason to get broken up over it. What’s done is done. The question is, how will you modify your behavior and beliefs to succeed the next time around.

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