If you ever want to experience immense feelings of love, admiration and heartbreak all at once, ask a mom this question:
“What is the biggest challenge you face as a mom raising a daughter?”
We asked this question of moms this past week. You shared a lot of wisdom and a very distinct theme – many of you are challenged by your daughter's fear of failure. You told us about how your daughters would often rather not try something than do it and not be good at. You understand that it’s impossible to figure out what you are good at, what you love without exploring all the possibilities and you don’t want her limiting herself.
You want your daughter to be confident and you know that confidence comes from being able to trust yourself and your abilities. And you worry that fear of failing – or not being the best at something – will keep her from the satisfaction of learning she can do hard things. That she can learn new skills. That there is joy and pride when you come through struggle or work hard something.
There isn’t a silver bullet to raising a confident young woman, but when it comes to overcoming fear of failure here are three things you can experiment with immediately.
1. Normalize Failure
Failure is a normal part of life, and it is what helps us learn. It can even sometimes lead to unexpected things. But when we avoid using the word “fail” or “failure” we give the word more power. We reinforce that it is something to be avoided. By naming it, and talking about it regularly that power diminishes.
At the end of each day, take time as a family to talk about what you each failed at that day (and you can talk about the good stuff too).
Here are some sentence stems that might get you started.
2. Give Fear a Code Name
Everybody feels fear. Our goal should not be to be fearless, but rather to figure out how to feel the fear and do it anyway (if the fear is of our own making). Again, there is value in naming things. Fear can often feel like butterflies in the stomach.
Tell her that when she gets that feeling she should remind herself, “those are just my butterflies.” Then she should take three deep breaths, and then decide if it is something that she should not do because there is a real reason to be afraid or if it is something that she should try.
Naming it and establishing what to do when she feels it may give her a way to move through the fear.
3. Promote Kindness to Self
If your daughter is prone to negative self-talk you can help her break that cycle. When you hear it in the words she says, or feel it in her mood or behavior, give her permission to stop by saying “Be kind to yourself.”
Take a moment together to make a list of the things she can do to show kindness to herself. That might mean taking a break from what she is doing that is frustrating, listening to music, coloring, giving herself a compliment, or taking a moment to do something she loves.
Are there things that you do that help your daughter overcome her fear of failure? We would love to hear them and add them to our list!