Updated: Jul 16
When you have children, most people often ask themselves, what is the one trait that I want to pass on so that my son or daughter will be incredibly successful in life? And, granted, the concept of success means different things to different people, but I’m referring to the reaching for the stars kind of greatness.
What trait do you think is necessary for your child to reach the pinnacle of their success?
Is it a love for travel or an appreciation of different cultures? Maybe it’s how to build and maintain relationships or a certain political point of view. You might be thinking it’s even how to be responsible with money or problem-solve when in a crisis.
While all of those are admirable traits and will come in handy along life’s pathway, they’re not the ones I would recommend above all else.
For me, I want to teach the future generation confidence. How to be confident in their abilities and how to be confident that they can accomplish great things. The confidence to excel and innovate.
But you might be surprised by how I think parents should go about this because it may seem counterproductive at first.
Here’s the thing, I want you to let your children fail. And fail big time.
Failure Is an Option
How do you instill confidence in a child? The truth is you let them fail. Over and over and over again until they succeed.
Sure, it’s hard. Hard for me (the parents) and hard for the child. For parents, it’s scary to see your child struggle and you very desperately want to help them to succeed. But you can’t do it for them. Sometimes, you have to take a step back and watch the cringeworthy moments as they happen. Let them happen.
And the children, well, they’ll want to quit. They will probably whine and kick and scream the entire time. They might even not like you very much at the moment. But you know what?
The more times they try and the more times they fail, the more they will grow as a person. The more confident they will become. Because, that one time, when they finally persevere and succeed, they will have overcome several obstacles to attain their goals.
Ultimately, the journey helped to make them stronger, more confident people. The harder it was to accomplish, the more confidence was instilled. The triumph is essential to understanding what it takes to be successful.
Sometimes it’s just too easy to give up on our goals. It’s simpler to take the path of least resistance. But really, it’s the victory over adversity that makes the person. Not to mention, learning from our mistakes.
I've spoken with over 600 CEOs from all over the world and four U.S. presidents. Do you know what they all have in common? They failed. Over and over and over again. Until they didn’t.
Take, for example, Bill Gates. Yep, he failed. His first software company was a total bust. And despite this failure, he kept trying until he finally succeeded with a little company called Microsoft. How about Dr. Seuss? Epic failure. His first book was rejected 28 times. That’s right, but he never gave up and at the time of his death had sold over 600 million copies of his books.
Thomas Edison, the great inventor, holds 1,093 patents. But the electric lightbulb was quite the challenge for him. In fact, he failed trying to make it work over 10,000 times. He just kept trying and failing over and over again. Until one day, he didn’t fail. He created one of the most important inventions of all time. That is what some would call, a success.
Through true grit and determination, these extraordinary people never gave up. They persisted. And before they knew it, they were succeeding. Until the next time, they failed, of course.
The Gift of Failure
So, do your children a favor. Give them the gift of failure. Encourage them to stick with something that they struggle with so that they can eventually overcome their challenges and ultimately gain confidence.
Encourage them to stick with that extracurricular activity that they struggle with or simply don’t panic when they fail a school assignment. Children need to learn that it’s ok to fail as long as they keep trying to improve. If everything comes easy to them, where the challenge and how will they learn to persist?
It is difficult for parents to watch their children fail. But children look to the adults in their life to learn how to react to situations. If you remain calm and weather adversity, children will take their cues from you. Thus, the greatest gift you can give your child is to not only exemplify overcoming your own fears and challenges but to support and encourage them when they fail.
We went through a phase where “helicopter” parenting was a thing. Parents felt as if they needed to ensure their child didn’t fail because self-esteem is a fragile construct. But here’s the thing, without ever failing, how can anyone truly understand what it means to succeed? You need the lows to appreciate the highs and to come out on the other end a confident individual. It all goes into what will become your story. After all, without the battle, there would be no heroes.
Success through failure breeds confidence. And it’s that confidence that will help future generations. Maybe your children will gain the confidence to succeed on levels that even you didn’t think were possible. Cut them some slack, encourage them to fail, and they might just surprise you.
Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!