“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
Winston Churchill was on to something.
New research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology says that taking failure in stride and praising it as part of a child’s learning process makes her more likely to succeed.
It’s as Easy as Explaining
In one experiment, researchers found that students who tried to complete deliberately impossible tasks and were spoken to about how the tasks were difficult beforehand did marginally better than those students who were set to the tasks without the talking-to. In another, they had two groups of students complete a reading comprehension exercise. They spoke to only one group about how learning can be hard, and when that group performed follow-up tests, they performed considerably better.
The Benefits of Failure Are Well-Known
Kids, like everyone else you’ve ever met, don’t take failure well. We’ve heard before that kids whose educational experiences are results-focused (“You’re so smart! What a great job!”) rather than process-focused (“I’m so impressed you worked so hard on this”) tend to judge themselves by the results of their work instead of arguably more important qualities, like ingenuity and tenacity.
In fact, it has been theorized that part of the problem with Gen Y—if there is one—is that they’ve been conditioned to seek praise as validation, and are paralyzed when they can’t find it and devastated when it isn’t coming.
As Debbie Glasser writes in Psychology Today:
“These studies suggest there may be important advantages to sending kids the message that learning new things can be difficult, and that learning takes time and repeated practice. This information can actually boost confidence, reduce fear of failure and ultimately improve performance.”
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