Building resilience: how failing can help your child succeed

Posted : 14 September 2017

By Mrs Wendy White
Director of Innovation

At a recent technology conference, there was an emphasis on the Growth Mindset and the work of Carol Dweck. Growth Mindset refers to the notion that intelligence and talent is not fixed, but in order to create success it needs to be developed through hard work, support and often, failure.

Failure is essential to encourage a growth mindset. Instead of condemning mistakes and seeing them as a negative, we should instead discuss how to learn from them to help students achieve better next time. It is vital that students are regularly presented with problems that they can’t necessarily solve correctly the first time, and that they are encouraged to make multiple attempts until they achieve success.

One school in the US has changed their grading system from pass/fail to Pass and Not Yet. Students who are only presented with problems they can solve don’t develop the skills necessary to persevere in order to solve complex problems, which are necessary in the 21st century workplace.

This is equally and sometimes even more important for very able students as those who struggle. The skills of problem solving and persistence are highly sought after in industry. For some very able students, persistence in the face of failure is not something they are used to and can often result in poor resilience.

So how can you help your child in building resilience and developing a growth mindset?

  1. Problem solving

Give them difficult problems to solve and encourage them to keep trying.
These can be critical thinking problems such as


or simple problems like the one below


Praise each attempt

Whether they succeed or not, FAIL is just a First Attempt In Learning.
This can involve a simple conversation congratulating them on what they achieved for their first attemp and then having a discussion about what may have gone wrong?; what could they do differently?; What is a different approach you could take? Get involved with the problem and point them in a different direction, but don’t do it for them.

  1. Provide support

If your child is upset about a “failure” console them and then help them work out how they are going to proceed to in their next attempt in learning.
It is very importyant at this age to resist the overwhelming desire to do it for them. Guide, encourage, chunk the task into smaller pieces, but stop short of providing them with the solution. Allowing them to eventually get there themselves will help them in building resilience.

As a Science Teacher and Technology Innovator at the College, I encourage students to always identify a problem and then work at different strategies to solve it. This is so important in all facets of life.

To learn more about how Penrith Anglican College encourages students to learn, achieve and progress, book your place on a College Tour.

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