We all want our kids to succeed, don’t we? Of course we do. We want them to excel at all their spiritual, moral, academic, athletic, artistic, and social endeavors. But they won’t. Sorry, but it’s true. So how will you guide your kids through their failures? The four steps below will help you develop a plan.
Anticipate Failure and Growth
Failure is part of growth. In fact, we could argue that it’s a necessary aspect of growth; and failure can’t occur if you aren’t even trying at all. So, in a way, failure is an indication of effort and progress. With the right perspective and appropriate levels of guidance, failure can actually lead to greater growth than what would have occurred without the apparent setback. There’s a difference between negativity & assuming your teen will fail versus realistically understanding that failure is part of life. God realizes that we’re only dust (Psalm 103:18), and we need to realize our own limitations.
Respond with Empathy and Humor
Empathy is different from sympathy in that empathy involves relying on one’s own similar experiences. When you console a teen, who’s sitting on the bench during a game while being frustrated with little-to-no playing time, by relating your own tenure as a bench-warmer, you’ll be understandably given a greater hearing than if you simply express your sympathy. Only once true empathy has been expressed will lightheartedness be likely to be received well, but humor can be a helpful coping mechanism; in fact, learning to laugh at yourself is something many successful people have credited with their ability to keep plugging away after multiple failures.
Help Provide Insight and Direction
There’s a fine line between coming across as preachy or bossy and providing helpful guidance. Some of how your advice may be perceived is dependent on your relationship with the teen as well as your own transparency about personal failures and setbacks. Sometimes an indirect method is best, explaining how your own failure spurred you on to make different choices, letting the teen connect the dots and apply your insights to her own situation. If it seems appropriate, you can ask how she thinks such a problem can be addressed differently in the future, while saving direct advice for if and when you’re asked.
Point to Christ
Just like when we’re faced with the failures of others, we can learn to see our own shortcomings as a bridge to the Good News of the Gospel. Each time we’re reminded that we “fall short” (Romans 3:23) of the perfect example of Christ, we become uniquely poised to realize and appreciate His perfect example anew (Hebrews 4:15). What we will never be, He always has been and always will be. Regardless of our failures, He is faithful — loving us, forgiving us, extending grace to us (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:8). In fact, we can even learn to be thankful for our limitations and failures because of the humility they produce and the way God can uniquely be glorified when our weaknesses are shown (2 Corinthians 12).