What to Do When Your Child Feels Like a Failure

Growing up involves a constant series of trial and error. Children test boundaries, learn new skills, meet new people, and go through a never-ending supply of firsts. This time of life is coupled with hormonal changes and tons of self-doubt, leading many children to feel like a failure. The tips below can help you navigate this time with your child and empower them to continue learning and growing. 

Acknowledge That Their Version of “Difficult” May Be Different Than Yours

Many parents are quick to brush off their child’s emotions. They have far fewer responsibilities, so why are they complaining?

Your perspective on what’s “difficult” is entirely different than your child’s perspective. You have past experiences to lean on. You know what you’ve already accomplished and feel capable of getting over a hurdle in your life.

Your child doesn’t have that experience to fall back on, and they aren’t developed enough to handle the same pressures you go through. Try to keep that in mind as you speak to them. Their stress is valid, even if it seems minimal to you.

Support Their Desire to Succeed

Feeling like a failure is a byproduct of wanting to succeed. Celebrate that. “I know things didn’t work out the way you wanted them to, but I am proud of you for trying.” They may feel like nothing is going their way, but they are making progress just by putting in effort. Be supportive of their goals and help them find alternative approaches to achieve them.

Identify Learning Opportunities – What Can You Learn from This?

One of the best ways to help a child not feel like a failure is to highlight what they accomplished while they “failed.” What did they learn along the way? How can they do better the next time they attempt the same task? Is there an important lesson they can take from failing that will make them succeed moving forward?

Maintain an open and welcoming flow of communication between yourself and your child. Make them feel comfortable coming to you with questions. They’re not supposed to know everything, and neither are you! Perhaps you can show them how to figure something out when you don’t have all the answers right away.

A child who feels like they have a solid support system is much less likely to feel like a failure. They know you have their back when they fall, and you’ll be there to help them stand tall.

Encourage Your Child to Avoid Comparisons

It is natural to compare your circumstances to someone else, but those comparisons aren’t always great for self-esteem. Some studies show that as much as 10% of human thoughts involve comparing ourselves to others. These thoughts are heightened when kids are exposed to social media because they see filtered versions of what they think their lives should be. It’s easy to feel like a failure when you’re inundated with images of people living perfect lives.

Help your child understand reality. Everyone fails at times, and everyone succeeds. One person’s success or failure has no impact on the progress you’ve made in your own life. Reduce the desire for comparisons and normalize the hurdles that all people experience.

Give Your Child the Tools to Find Positive Traits in Negative Situations

Feeling like a failure doesn’t go away in adulthood. There will inevitably come a time when your child makes a wrong decision or a big mistake. You can equip them to handle the emotions that follow, so they can bounce back and regroup.

Help your children see the positive aspects of negative situations. If they worked hard and didn’t win something, they built up their stamina to do better next time. If they fail miserably due to a lack of preparation, they know to be more diligent in the future. And if they feel overwhelmed by other people’s expectations, they can lean on you for support. They will get through the tough situation, and so will you.