As parents, we naturally want to protect our kids from heartbreak and disappointment. We want to shield them from harm and making wrong choices. But as much as we want to guide them, making mistakes are a part of life. Our children need to fail in order for them to learn and grow. And we need to let go and allow them to make their own mistakes and sort out their problems if we want to them to become stronger and wiser.
Your child will experience failure in some form at some point as an athlete. They can’t always win, and there will be times that the loss is devastating. They may blame themselves or feel so bad that they feel discouraged to ever step back on the field or court. Your child’s confidence and self-esteem can take a hit each time they lose. Failure can make them hesitant, paranoid, and a bit depressed.
But as much as failing stings, those feelings after a loss are often temporary. With guidance and emotional support, kids can emerge from defeat feeling stronger. Instead of feeling fearful, they feel more motivated. They’ll come out of it wiser with experience after having recognized what went wrong and would they could have done differently.
But instead of dwelling on what caused the failure, they’ll take that insight and apply it to the next opportunity to correct the action and hopefully, enjoy a more positive outcome. And while it won’t always work, they build the resilience and tenacity they need to keep going and keep trying.
When kids experience failure and learn how to accept it, they recognize the valuable lessons that they can take away. This doesn’t mean that they welcome failure or look for ways to lose so that they can learn from it. It does, however, say that they are prepared and won’t find themselves debilitated by a loss or defeat.
It’s important for parents and coaches not to punish kids for their mistakes. There’s no need to take them out of the game or bench them unless of course their fault was behavioral and could cause harm to other players. Youth athletes will make errors in judgments or perform poorly. Reprimanding them only makes them feel as though that mistake defines them.
Instead, parents and coaches should use moments of failure as opportunities to offer feedback. Allow them to work through their feelings without being judgemental. Kids won’t always recognize the lessons right away. And they will need your support as they figure out how to forgive themselves for their faults.
Children need strong role models who will help them realize how failure can be empowering because it gives them life experience. Your youth athlete needs to be able to look up to their parents and coaches and know that the mistakes they make aren’t being used to define who they are as people or players.