Fear of Failure Blocks our Clearest Path to Success

There are already a million reasons why I have chosen to home-school my kids. Last night, after a bit of pillow talk with my husband, I added another to the list.

I believe that our current educational system trains children to have a fear of failure, and without failure no one can succeed.

With all of the focus we put on test scores and grades our children are conditioned to think that if they can’t live up to the standard of perfection that we have set for them then there is something wrong with them. They are not adequate. They are unintelligent, unsuccessful, a failure. And that’s the end of it. You have failed. Big fat F. Now we have to move on, because the rest of the class is ready, and you will always and forever remain the failure.

WE have taught our kids to fear failure|smithsquad.com|Jessica Lahey|education|homeschool|unschool

If you get “bad” grades or bad test scores you won’t get into college. If you bring home a “bad” report card you may get punished, at the very least you will be met with disapproval and disappointment. You don’t get free meals at the local family diner for being average. You don’t get honor roll status if you try a harder class and don’t get that A. You definitely don’t get into a “good” college with a transcript full of C’s.

All of this pressure to be perfect is creating a generation who will almost always choose to take the easy road and get the “A” rather than try something hard and risk being labeled a failure.

Did you know that Edison “failed” over 1,000 times while trying to invent the lightbulb?

When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” – They Did Not Give Up

Where would our world be if Edison had been brainwashed into believing that an “A” was more important than never giving up? I, for one, am extremely grateful that when his teachers said he was “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams” as they expelled him from school that he chose to keep moving forward, and ignore their negative criticism. Every great inventor, creator, artist, CEO etc. has failed countless times. The reason they made it to the top is because they treated failure as an opportunity to learn, not a reason to quit.

So why aren’t we teaching this level of dedication and persistence in our schools? I’m sure there are some amazingly motivating teachers that are pushing their students to new heights, but as a whole our system is failing to give the children the crucial fortitude it takes to be successful in this world. this is in no way the fault of the teachers, many of which are every bit as frustrated with the system as I am. This problem is the result of a flawed system that puts too much focus on grades and test scores and does not celebrate individuality and creativity.

We are creating a generation that is content to work for someone else’s dreams because they are too afraid of failure to pursue their own. I personally chose to take the basic level Physics class instead of the honors or AP class recommended by my counselor because I cared far more about my GPA than I did my education. Many of peers made similar choices, and with the increase in focus in standardized testing I can only imagine that this attitude is becoming more and more prevalent.

Failure is an opportunity to learn|smithsquad.com|unschool|homeschool|no fear
Ben failed at least 20 times before he finally built something that would actually dam the water.

This is why we don’t have grades or testing in our home-school. I can tell when a child has mastered a subject and when they do we move forward. When they struggle we try over and over again until they master it. Mastery and self-confidence are far more important to me than an A or a good test score. This doesn’t just apply to academics. It applies to the playground,  art,  music, building, and anything else that they want to pursue. I wont’ do it for them or help them just so they can succeed. I will allow them to fall flat on their face as many times as it takes so that they can truly learn mastery over their desires and know that they are capable of success, no matter how many times they fail.

I will do everything in my power to insure that my children do no grow up with a fear of failure that prevents them from achieving their ultimate level of success.

How do you encourage your children to dare to try new things and build their self-esteem?



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