Help your child overcome the fear of failure

5 Minutes to Read -

Help your child overcome the fear of failure 1 overcoming the fear of failiureNo one likes to fail.  As a result, for some, the fear of failure becomes such a huge threat that the motivation to avoid failure outweighs their motivation to succeed.

Although we may not be aware that we have a fear of failure, it may actually hinder our chances of success. So what does that all mean when it comes to our children? My daughter is always worried about failing and it worries me. She may only get one question wrong in a test but that’s enough to make her feel deflated and unsuccessful.

Of course, as parents, we want our children to do well and get good test scores but it’s not all about tests. Failure in all areas of life is a fear we all have. The fear of failing our driving test, fear of not doing a good job, fear of disappointing our family and friends; fear is a survival mechanism. It should really be used to motivate us to do better but sometimes, it can go the opposite way and we fall into a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy where we start to believe that we will never pass that driving test or never do a good job or even feel that we are always going to be a disappointment to our friends and family. This only causes a downwards spiral of negativity. This is what we want our children to avoid.

Before we look at some of the things you and your child can do to overcome the fear of failing, let us have a look at whether the fear itself is a good or bad thing.

Fear of failing can be a healthy thing if there is a good balance; too much fear can destroy you but a lack of fear can be just as harmful. If you lack fear, you can become overconfident and in turn, fail  at your endeavours . So, when my daughter left this morning telling me that she is scared she’s going to fail her arithmetic test , I wasn’t very worried as I was confident that she will do her best. The fear she was displaying was the fear of a possible failure; that fear of failure can help to achieve success. If you start to believe that failure is impossible, chances of failure increases. Now, we don’t want an overconfident child!

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My husband is always telling me that I wouldn’t be ‘me’ if I wasn’t worrying about something. I suppose, this is what has kept me going all my life. The fear that I will fail! Even as I sit here typing this, I am worried that it will be full of rubbish and no one will make any sense of it! I hope you do and I really hope it helps you, however, that fear has enabled me to build up my confidence and keeps the adrenaline flowing! Take yourself back to school, when you had to come out on stage for a school play. I hated it! I was so scared, but it always turned out well in the end. I guess now I know there is a purpose to being scared about failure.

When you take a look at successful people, you will soon learn that they failed several times before they were successful. If the fear was too great, they would have given up, but they kept going. Could fear of failing be a bad thing? Only if there is such a great fear that anxiety takes over causing you to stop in your tracks and not take any more risks. Balance is the key!

So what can you do to help your child overcome the fear of failing? Now, as we have established, some fear is good.  It’s how to cope with it that we really need to look at and how we can use that fear of failing to our advantage.

Your child may feel that they have failed if they lose a reward. Let me explain. You want your child to help with the laundry; their reward is having some ice cream later for helping out. If they do not do the laundry, there’s no ice cream. If the task is achievable, the chances of failing are low and the chance of success in high. Your child is more likely to succeed at the task and gain their reward. Hey presto! Your laundry is done!!


How can this be applied at school? With our children being at school, they will want to succeed in tests, friendships and teacher approval. As long as the fear is not too great, your child will use their fear to their advantage. Those that have a lack of fear and are overconfident will often struggle to make friends, teachers will often label as troublesome and they will struggle with coping with failed tests. Keep the conversation going with your child and find out about their fears. If you are worried, you can deal with it to ensure your child is equipped with the tools they need to continue successfully at school.

A drive to succeed creates fear of failure. We have already touched on this earlier but I wanted to explore how this helps our children. Just as hunger keeps us looking for food, regardless of the risks, your child’s progress is that hunger and trip and falls along the way is the fear.

If your child is making progress at school, even if it is small, they are taking risks every day to get there. There is an innate hunger in all of us and the fear of starvation keeps us going. Your child’s teacher will already be setting achievable targets for your child and you could continue this at home. As long as it is achievable, your child will feel more confident in taking risks.

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Fear keeps us moving. When we fear that failure may be a very real option, we don’t waste time on the little things that will not make much difference as to whether we succeed or fail. We jump and take leaps! My daughter has been working on planning an event at her next school fair. She really wants to do well and to fail is not an option. So instead of waiting to be told what to do, she took it on herself to delegate, then she started planning and creating products to sell herself. She could have taken a back seat, but that wasn’t an option for her. She knew that there was a possibility that they could end up having their stall taken away and she definitely did not want that. Yes, you guessed right, she had me helping her and we created items together, but she used her fear of failing to draw on all the resources she had.

Fear of failing inspires creativity. Thinking outside the box, taking an extra step, pushing boundaries, to stand out; we have to do all of these things. Do you all remember Tracy Emin who created the piece of art entitled ‘The Unmade Bed’? Who would have thought that she could be so successful? Her drive and fear of failing caused her to take that risk and think outside the box. So there you have it, a perfect example. I’m not saying that your child should use Tracy as an excuse not to tidy their room! Of course not, but encourage them to do more, be more creative and to be different.

Learning from others. I know I have asked colleagues, friends and family for thoughts, ideas and suggestion about anything and everything. I know we all do it and we should encourage our children to do it too. Our children do not want to fail; they want to do well so they should be more willing to ask others. It doesn’t mean that they will copy their ideas; it might just help to unlock the thought processes for them. If they see you asking others, they are more likely to do it too. It’s ok to ask for help or to ask how somebody else did their school project or answered a question.

It turns out that fear of failure isn’t such a bad thing after all and it is a driving force for success.

If you have found the information above helpful, I’d love to hear from you, if not, why not tell me why. I am all ears!


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