Fear of Failure in Children: How to Avoid It
When children have a fear of failure, their potential is diminished, often causing them great emotional uneasiness. They feel weak, vulnerable, demotivated, incapable and thus stop trying to move forward.
The word “failure” causes a lot of fear in adults. This is usually consequential of an education based on punishing mistakes and on giving them negative connotations.
When mistakes are a cause for mockery, contempt or rejection, it becomes difficult for someone to seize opportunities. As a result, it affects their growth and use of everyday opportunities.
Being unable to fight for what you want diminishes your quality of life and won’t provide you any welfare. We’ll talk about this in more detail in this article.
Characteristics of children with a fear of failure
- Low self-esteem.
- Low tolerance to criticism (even constructive).
- Deficient defenses (because the immune system becomes depressed).
- Fear of expressing ideas, thoughts and emotions; as well as a great fear to act out.
The fear of failure in children is easy to detect. They usually fear being judged and rejected for whatever they do. As a result, they tend to be very cautious and avoid relating to other people.
Similarly, they tend to feel uncomfortable and anxious in carrying out certain tasks for fear of making mistakes.
If in a family environment they’re punished for their mistakes, they’ll feel very intimidated and this will gradually generate a distrust regarding their parents. This can lead to a serious deterioration in the relationship.
Fear of failure in children prevents them from taking risks and giving themselves the opportunity to explore the world and grow. Therefore, their experiences are usually poor.
A child may fear not being able to achieve success and thus refuse to carry out a project . This insecurity and lack of self-confidence will affect many aspects of his or her life.
What causes fear of failure in children?
- Lack of attention.
- Projections of the parents of the children.
- Physical and psychological abuse (ridicule, punishment, impositions, etc.).
When parents exaggeratedly pressure their children into being perfect in everything they do, they create a distorted reality for them, preventing them from having adequate psycho-emotional health.
Unfortunately, the media fosters fear of failure in children and in the general population.
How? Well, by spreading the idea that a failed person looks bad, has no prestige, social relationships, few (or no) capacities and, in short, is a loser.
Rejecting errors is closely related to this image. Additionally, the concept of a “winner” or apt person has been reinforced with material goods and the ephemeral world of advertising and commerce.
Strategies to overcome it
Failure isn’t the end of the world. Failure or mistakes provide opportunities to grow, expand our analytical capacity, learn, correct and move forward much stronger and wiser. And it’s very important that we let children know this.
It’s imperative that children be taught to overcome their fears for themselves. They should also know that they’ll have the affection, advice, and support of their parents. In this sense, we must strengthen their capacities, guide them, provide them with security, respect, and understanding.
They should also be constantly reminded that failure can be overcome and that it doesn’t always represent an unpleasant experience. Many times mistakes leave funny anecdotes.
Let’s show them what things they can change and help them with the ones they can’t on their own. This way, it’ll be easier to understand that the label of “loser” or “unsuccessful” doesn’t define us or mark us for life.
Ways to help children
- Value their effort. Even if they don’t get the highest grade in an exam, for example, but they tried hard, you have to value their effort and motivate them to try again next time.
- The objective must be realistic and appropriate. It’s important to educate them and encourage them to set sensible and attainable objectives, that are within their reach and that can be measured. This would be the best way for them to later value the effort that was devoted to achieving their goals.
- Consistency is a great companion. We must instruct and encourage them to persevere, not to renounce the tasks and goals set at the first sight of an error or failure. It’s important to be realistic; however, it’s also important to insist that effort can bring great results and valuable experiences.
- Parents should be the example. Parents’ influence is of great importance. As parents, we’re role models and examples to follow for our children, and especially in the first years of their life. It’s impossible to teach them, much less demand things of them, if we’re not showing them the example we seek and the results we expect. Don’t instil fear of failure in children.
- It’s essential to avoid overprotection. To prevent fostering fear of failure in children, we shouldn’t avoid problems and difficulties, much less do everything for them. It’s more beneficial to educate them with autonomy, in such a way that they can take care of themselves.
- Being too permissive is another enemy. Children, at any age, need guides, role models, and examples to help them complete challenging tasks. And their best role model and guide is us, their parents. Let’s not make them learn everything outside the home. We must make educating them at home a priority.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Orgilés, M., Espada, J. P., Méndez, X., & García-Fernández, J. M. (2008). Miedos escolares en hijos de padres divorciados y no divorciados. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 8(3), 693-703. https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/337/33712016005.pdf
- Valiente, R. M., Sandín, B., & Chorot, P. (2002). Miedos comunes en niños y adolescentes: Relación con la sensibilidad a la ansiedad, el rasgo de ansiedad, la afectividad negativa y la depresión. Revista de psicopatología y Psicología clínica, 7(1), 61-70. http://revistas.uned.es/index.php/RPPC/article/view/3922