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3rd May 2022
Exam Pressure

Fear of Failure

9th Jun 2021

Are we so busy encouraging our children to win and to succeed that we have forgotten how to teach them how to manage disappointment and failure?

With the flurry of after school activities returning to our diaries and the chaos that again brings, what has been lovely to see is how happy they all are to be back. How delighted they are to once again be allowed face to face contact with friends. To laugh, to interact, to touch and remember what normality looked like for them only a brief 12 months or so ago. But with that comes the resurgence of their competitive streaks, their desire to ‘be the best’ and to ‘win’.

But is it just from the children we see that streak, or is it prevalent in some of us parents too?

Take a simple team sport. When we watch as parents, are we looking for teamwork, for resilience, for kindness – or are we looking for them to win?

Because if it’s the latter then perhaps we need to think about what message that is sending to our children and what pressure we are subconsciously placing them under.

When children as young as 5 and 6 years old are being told it’s about winning rather taking part then perhaps some of the vital life skills that team sports can offer our children are being lost? Team sports offer our children so much in terms of learning and development. Teamwork, resilience, communication skills. All skills that can add real value as they grow and develop. And surely skills matter more than whether a child ‘wins’ or is ‘the best’?

And for those children who do consistently achieve and win, what is the end consequence for them? As adults we all need to be able to manage and process failure and disappointment. Arguably that is a skill we need to be taught from our early years. But we cannot be taught that without exposure. If our child always wins, how will they cope when they lose? And if they feel our support towards them is based around them winning how will that affect the dynamic when they then lose and feel they have failed us as well as themselves?

I overheard a comment recently in a discussion where one parent was telling another that ‘a bit of healthy competition is good’ for children. But why is it good for them? We are all competitive to varying degrees, and therefore it stands to reason our children will be no different. But we can take ourselves, as parents, out of that equation. We can be there to support them when they win, support them when they lose and support them at all the times in between. Because life is hard enough growing up without us adding to the pressures they feel. As parents and guardians, we should be their safe space regardless of whether they win or lose. And if they experience disappointment we need them to know we are there for them and will support them in processing that disappointment whatever the circumstances.

So, before you ask them how well they did at something today, stop and rephrase and ask them what they had fun doing today instead. See what a difference in response you get.


Written by Lucy Howard, BulliesOut Digital Communications Officer

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