top of page

When we allow our kids to fail, we teach them how to learn

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”~Henry Ford

Think for a moment about what you believed you could and couldn't do in school and how those beliefs either propelled your achievement or locked you in to poor performance. What if you knew then that experience and practice can alter the growth of your brain? Extensive research in brain elasticity, the brain's ability to change and adapt as a result of experience and practice, tells us that when students believe they can actually get smarter, they work harder, and they see significant increases in achievement.

Think mindset. When we replace the word "fail" with the word "learn," students begin to shift the focus from the end result to the process. Believing that mistakes are actually opportunities removes the pressure to look "smart" and gives students the energy to ask questions, seek alternative answers, collaborate, and dig deeper.

It is part of what Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck refers to as a "growth mindset,and this important shift opens the door to meaningful personal growth and a love of learning.

When we believe that our capabilities are innate, limited, and cannot be changed, we are operating in a "fixed mindset," according to Dweck. In this way of thinking, students set their value meter on their performance -- good grades, successful project outcomes, etc., whether they have learned anything or not. Instead of being energized or motivated, students with a "fixed mindset" face challenges with anxiety and view poor performance as confirmation of their limitations. This mindset no doubt becomes a cycle.

And there are other benefits to adopting a growth mindset. Admitting and accepting mistakes also give kids opportunities to practice being more gracious with themselves and others. With a growth mindset culture at school and at home, students can worry less about making mistakes and focus more on opportunities to learn and grow both academically and socially.


bottom of page