There’s a new ‘F’ word our kids are scared of hearing and it’s time to change the way we talk about it.

Why does it feel like we have created a culture of fear when it comes to failure amongst today’s kids? No red pen. No failure. But lots of cotton wool.

The ‘everyone gets a prize’ mentality might sound nice in theory, but the fact is that life comes with failure. We need to start thinking about how we can best prepare our kids to learn from failing.

Professor Marilyn Campbell from Queensland University of Technology’s Education faculty researches anxiety in kids and says that learning is all about failing or making mistakes.

“It’s about building resilience and having a realistic understanding that if you make a mistake or don’t do as well as you wanted to then that’s okay,” Marilyn says. “You have to look at what you did wrong and learn how you can perform better next time.”

One of the ways to overcome the negativity around failing is to look at things with a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed one.

A growth mindset acknowledges that knowledge and skills can be developed overtime as opposed to a fixed mindset that assumes knowledge is ‘static’ and cannot be enhanced. Put simply, kids need to remember that practice makes perfect! None of us started as experts and none of us are perfect. Kids cannot expect to be perfect either.

The fear culture around failure is leading to kids feeling entitled to a pass – which just isn’t right! Real learning is challenging and that challenge can often include failure.

“Unfortunately some kids now have this sense of entitlement that they need to pass everything,” Marilyn says. “It’s a fine line between saying that you can do it if you put your mind to it and a sense of entitlement that you will get everything you want and will be able to achieve everything you want.”

Marilyn says that we need to remind kids that regardless of the subject area learning is about our personal best rather than breaking someone else’s record.

We think it’s time to embrace failure for what it is and take everything on board that we can learn from it. It doesn’t matter if kids fail. What matters is that they stand back up, dust themselves off and try again – only this time they’re more likely to succeed.



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