4 Ways to Help Your Kids Fail Forward

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One of the shows that my wife and I enjoy watching together is Parenthood. It’s about four adult siblings dealing with the ups and downs of marriage, divorce, and raising kids.

A few years ago we were watching an episode in which then 7-year-old Sydney was playing a friendly game with her grandfather, Zeek. When Sydney loses the game she begins yelling her grandfather, accusing him of cheating, and throwing the game pieces across the room.

Zeek later confronts her parents, Joel and Julia, by telling them, “You two are coddling my granddaughter, you know that? Sydney is a sore loser. She doesn’t learn how to lose then she’s not going to learn about real life. She thinks that it’s her birthright to win.”

As parents we don’t like to see our kids upset. We try to protect them as much as possible. But sometimes that’s not always a good thing.

Author, speaker, and fellow parent Charles Fay says, “…Learning about losing is part of life…Loving parents allow their children to develop winning skills by allowing them to experience disappointments, make small mistakes, and experience the natural and logical consequences. Shielding them from all of life’s hardships sends the message that they aren’t strong enough to cope with their losses. Loving them through their sadness allows them to win every time they lose.”

Here are four ways you can help your kids fail forward:

1. Teach your child to find their worth in God’s love for them.

In our culture it’s so easy to equate our self-worth with our net-worth. Kids are no different. Society teaches them at an early age that a person’s value is measured by their valuables, abilities, and accomplishments. As parents we must teach our kids that they are loved and valued by God no matter what anyone else says.

The Apostle Paul said, “…Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39 NLT).

Reading and discussing passages like this with our kids and loving them unconditionally will go a long way in helping them to find their self-worth in Christ.

2. Talk to them about how to respond when things don’t go their way.

The Bible says that as a parent you must, “Direct your children onto the right path” (Proverbs 22:6a NLT). Talk to your kids ahead of time about how they should respond when they don’t get what they want.

To help my kids (ages four and three) with this I like to share and talk to them about the Golden Rule: “Do for others what you want them to do for you” (Matthew 7:12a TLB). I then ask them if they would like so-and-so to treat them that way. If the answer is no, I ask them how they would like that person to treat them. Then I encourage my kids to do that for the others.

The younger we start doing this with our kids the more likely they will live like this when they are older.

3. Let them experience the consequences of their decisions.

As a pastor one of the biggest mistakes I see parents make is bailing their kids out of the messes that their kids have created for themselves. The Bible teach us that, “A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again” (Proverbs 19:19 NIV).

Rescuing our kids from their mistakes usually serves to enable that kind of behavior in the future. It teaches that you will fix all their problems for them. Our job as parents isn’t to fix our kids problems, but to teach them how to fix them.

As painful as it is to watch our kids make mistakes, we do more harm than good when we always bail them out.

4. Lovingly discuss what they should do next time.

When our kids mess up, we need to come in and help guide them back onto the right path. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline of the Lord Himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice” (Ephesians 6:4 TLB, emphasis added).

When your kids blow it (and they will) lovingly discuss what happened, what the consequences are, and what they need to do moving forward. Afterwards, affirm their worth and remind them that you love them and that God loves them.

Teaching our kids how to deal with failure isn’t easy. There’s no quick fix. But when we help them find their worth in God’s love for them, teach them how to respond when life doesn’t go their way, allow them to experience the consequences of their decisions, and loving give them suggestions and godly advice we greatly increase their chances of failing forward.

Question: What methods have you found effective in helping your kids fail forward? You can leave a comment below.

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