Learning to bounce back from failure

Learning to bounce back from failure
Failure is a part of learning. How do you help your child cope with failure?

How can failure help your child?

Experiencing failure is a part of learning. Children build their sense of self-esteem when they succeed, but also when they make mistakes and encounter difficulties and failure. It’s important to encourage them to persevere and remind them that failure is only one step in their journey, and not a determiner of their worth.

Over time, their self-confidence will grow, since they know they’re capable of overcoming challenges they might face.

How can you encourage perseverance?

Though your child might be dealing with difficult emotions after a failure, encourage them not to give up and to try again. Here’s how you can help build your child’s self-confidence when they experience failure:

  • Encourage your child in a positive and honest way. Highlight their strengths without denying their weaknesses to boost their confidence. Remind them of their past successes to help them persevere.
  • Set realistic goals for them. Your child needs to face challenges in order to grow, but they have to be in line with their abilities. Overly high expectations might discourage them. Respect your child’s learning pace and recognize what their strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Praise them for their effort. Show that you value their work and the results of their effort. For example, you can say, “Good job, you’ve made progress!” or “You worked hard, you should be proud,” rather than simply, “You’re so good” or “You’re so smart!” This way, they’ll learn that they have power over things and that they’re able to improve themself.
  • Help them forward with small steps. If your child is struggling, you can help them break down a big task into smaller goals or steps. By seeing their progress from one step to the next, they’ll be encouraged and feel more confident about facing similar challenges.
  • Help them find solutions. Suggest alternative ways of doing things. Help them ask the right questions so they can find what works best for them and determine what they can do to be more successful next time.
  • Don’t overprotect your child by doing things for them to make their life easier. If you do everything for them, they’ll come to believe that they aren’t able to overcome difficulties on their own. In the long run, they might feel less inclined to make an effort. To support your child when they are facing obstacles, try to get them to acknowledge their weaknesses and mistakes.
  • Don’t make fun of them for struggling. Instead, be empathetic and allow your child to express their emotions in the face of obstacles or defeat. Be calm and patient when your child reacts emotionally to failure.
  • Be a role model. Children imitate adults, especially their parents. If you react badly to failure or give up on the first failed attempt, your child will conclude that there is no point in persevering.
  • Share some of your own failures. You can tell them about failures you experienced back when you were in school and how you overcame them. Your child will feel reassured knowing that you’ve also faced challenges and managed to overcome them.

Understanding academic failure and finding solutions

If you notice that your child is consistently struggling in school, try to learn more about what might be going on. To give them the help they need, you need to pinpoint the source of the issue. Answering the following questions might help:

  • Do they have problems with concentration, hearing, or vision? If you think this is the case, consult a doctor or optometrist.
  • Are they concerned about a recent event?
  • Are they having trouble adapting to a change?
  • Is their environment and family situation conducive to studying?
  • Do they tend to compare themself to other students or feel judged?
  • Do they seem sad or more emotional than usual?

Talk to your child and their teacher. Work together to find the best solution for your child. It’s important to intervene before they fall too far behind.

Your child will be reassured when they know what caused them to fail. This information will also help them plan how to approach a similar situation in the future.

Fear of failure

Some children who have experienced failure are afraid to begin a task or assignment because they are afraid of failing again. If this is the case with your child, here’s what you can do to help.

  • Remind them of their accomplishments, even in areas outside of school (art, sports, etc.) to help them feel more confident about starting the assignment.
  • Sit down with them and go over the tools suggested by their teacher to begin an assignment.
  • Divide the work they need to do into small steps. Ask them to do the first step and then check with them to see how the work is going. If this step goes well, they can build on this small success to continue the assignment.

Things to keep in mind

  • Failure and mistakes are part of the learning process.
  • With the support of both you and their teacher, the solutions your child finds will help them gradually gain confidence.
  • By offering support and reminding them of their accomplishments, you can help your child learn to react less negatively to failure.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Solène Bourque, psychoeducator
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir Team
Updated: June 2022


Photo: iStock.com/BakiBG


Sources and references

Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.

  • AboutKidsHealth. “Self-efficacy: How to foster in children.” 2012. aboutkidshealth.ca
  • Alloprof Parents. “Tips and tricks to help your child overcome their fear of failure.” alloprof.qc.ca
  • Alloprof Parents. “Bouncing back from academic failure.” alloprof.qc.ca
  • Béliveau, Marie-Claude. J’ai mal à l’école : troubles affectifs et difficultés scolaires. Parlons Parents series, Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2019, 176 pp.
  • Bénard, Tiphanie. “Devoirs : les phrases “magiques” à dire pour booster son enfant.” Psychologies. September 10, 2020. psychologies.com
  • Centre de transfert pour la réussite éducative du Québec (CTREQ). “Que peuvent faire les parents lorsqu’un enfant vit un échec?” 2016. rire.ctreq.qc.ca
  • Laporte, Danielle and Lise Sévigny. L’estime de soi des 6–12 ans. Parlons Parents series, Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2019, 120 pp.
  • Mascret, Damien. “Savoir réagir aux échecs d’un enfant.” Le Figaro, March 18, 2012. sante.lefigaro.fr
  • NotreFamille. “Pourquoi ont-ils peur de se tromper?” 2013. vosquestionsdeparents.fr