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Why it's OK to Fail

This Mental Health Week we look at the benefits of failure

Can't Do It

One of the stories I regularly trot out to my kids is of the day my daughter sat in the back of the car ranting "I can't do it! It's too hard" about starting to play the piano. I was at a loss as to help with that one - she had a point - it is really tricky to learn the piano especially when you are only 6 and your hands are small!

On the journey to the piano lesson she talked herself round without any help from me. Until in the end she was shouting: "I am not a quitter”! She'd become her own Sergeant Major and Cheer Leader at the same time. So I wasn’t much use there, but how amazing that she could do that for herself!

Remember For Them

Ever since then I’ve always reminded my kids about how hard they used to find something and how good they are at it now - walking, football, reading... even a climbing wall! This climbing wall, for example, was "I CAN'T" to start with (and I’m not going to try) but he got there.

We need our kids to understand how important it is to try. Even if we try and fail the first time, or the first 50 times, there is no other way to do something that’s hard. This mental health week let’s encourage our kids, and ourselves, that getting something wrong is a great way to learn. If we could do everything the first time round then life would be way more boring. There’s nothing more satisfying than realizing you finally managed to achieve something that was really difficult.

How We Learn

Research says that the question we got wrong in a test will be the one we remember for life. So one of the best ways to revise for exams is to try to answer questions about it and then go back to check your answers. It’s another way in which we fail the first time but it only makes us stronger. So those low mock exam results are actually a good thing – they mean you’ll do better in the real exams. Make sure you tell that to any stressed out teens you find this exam season.

Building Resilience

Six year’s later that little one shouting encouragement at herself in the back of my car is on the point of taking her Grade 5 Piano, Grade 4 Clarinet and Grade 5 Theory [#ProudMum]. So she’s still keeping on, keeping on under her own motivation. Will she keep that attitude going when it comes to the crunch of GCSE and A level exams? Well of course we hope so, and just to make sure we will keep reminding her about that day in the car when she was 6 and said “I’m not a quitter!”

It doesn't matter if you fail. That's just experience for the next try.

Let's build resilience this mental health week and beyond!

With best wishes to you and yours from,

Dr Helen Care and Rachel Tustian

A Confident Start - psychology that works for your family

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