Some wonderfully wise words from Tamarra Levitt. She has written a book called “Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands” as a counterpoint to the classic children’s book “The Little Engine That Could“, which emphasizes that success requires hard work and determination.
She writes: “The Little Engine That Could” teaches the lesson of persistence, which is an important lesson every child should learn. The challenge we face is that not every goal is attainable. Often in life we put our efforts towards something and fail. So the question I wanted to answer in “Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands” is where to go from there.
There is so much emphasis placed on achievement that when children fail it leads to disappointment, frustration and shame. And those aren’t motivators to keep trying. Failing often leads to quitting and lack of self-worth.
In my opinion, learning how to respond to a failure is just as important as placing an effort on a goal. To learn to honor our limitations, practice self-kindness and self-compassion when we fall, and celebrate the things we can do in life is what leads to resilience, healthy self-esteem and happiness.
Children should absolutely be taught to challenge themselves and make efforts to reach their goals. But we also need to offer children permission to fail and the skills to learn how to accept, learn, and grow from their failure.
Here are 5 tips for parents and educators who wish to support children develop resilience:
1. Celebrate effort not outcome. Praise and congratulate that they’ve tried irrespective of the outcome and even when they do succeed.
2. Children emulate our behavior. Share your failures and show that it’s okay to fail when you do.
3. Practice failure. Play a game of chance and discuss what they can tell themselves when they fail, and what compassionate words can they offer opponents when they win.
4. Emphasize their learning successes. When a child is distraught about what they can’t do, remind them of all the wonderful things they CAN do and have LEARNED to do, and the wonderful qualities that make them who they ARE.
5. Help your kids to feel safe when they fail. Make it clear that they are loved and valued regardless of what they can or cannot do.