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How To Unlock the Reasons Behind Children’s Fear of Failure

Have you ever wondered why some children shy away from challenges or show a deep fear of failure? 

It’s a puzzling phenomenon that many parents encounter, leaving them questioning what lies beneath their child’s apprehension. Understanding the fear of failure in children is crucial to support them effectively and help them thrive. 

But how do we identify if our children have a fear of failure? Take a look at the below scenarios, have you ever noticed the following from your children

  • avoid taking part in challenging tasks 
  • constantly seeking reassurance or validation from you or someone else
  • feeling anxious of making mistakes
  • always comparing themselves unfavorably to others
  • putting off assignments or studying
  • exhibit signs of nervousness, irritability, or even physical symptoms like stomach aches or headaches when faced with challenging situations
  • use phrases like “I can’t do it” or “I’m not good enough” 

When any of the above event happened,  it is common for parents to often make assumptions about the underlying reasons of the behavior:

  • Lazy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Overly sensitive
  • Being dramatic
  • Attention-seeking
  • Overly negative
  • Etc

Do you find the above assumptions familiar? If you do, now is the time to be aware and be mindful of these factors. 

Children’s fear of failure can stem from various origins and reasons. Often, it arises from societal pressure to meet high expectations or a fear of disappointing loved ones. 

Due to prior failures or unfavorable feedback, children may also connect failure with feelings of shame or inadequacy. Children’s emotional health, self-confidence, and future success may all be negatively impacted by this dread. As a result, they could be less inclined to take chances, investigate new possibilities, and challenge themselves. 

As parents, it’s natural to worry about our children’s struggles and their fear of failure. Is natural for us to have the desire to protect them from pain and setbacks. 

Regardless, we have to be on an active look out for signs of fear of failure in our children. Here are the ways on how to find out the reasons behind a child’s fear of failure:

Lookout #1 Create a Safe and Supportive Environment

Foster an atmosphere of trust and open communication where the child feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions by dedicating regular quality time for one-on-one conversations with your child. You don’t need to carve out extra time as it can be easily done during dinner or before bedtime, where you can give your undivided attention to your child. 

While having the conversation, do remind yourself to provide a non-judgmental space where they can freely share their fears and concerns. 

By consistently creating this safe and focused space for open dialogue, you encourage your child to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, emotions, and concerns without fear of judgment or interruption.

Lookout #2 Actively Listen and Observe

Always be sure to keep an eye on your children’s actions, tone of speech and body language when they speak about their challenges or difficulties.

One good example of a tell-tale sign that a child may be experiencing fear of failure is when they consistently avoid participating in activities or tasks they perceive as challenging. The child may exhibit hesitancy, reluctance, or come up with excuses to avoid these situations altogether. This avoidance behavior serves as a clue that they may be grappling with the fear of failure, as they fear judgment, disappointment, or not meeting expectations.

Observe how they react in different situations, especially those that involve potential failure or setbacks. If you noticed anything that shows the sign, encourage them to share their thoughts and concerns about the event. 

As parents, we tend to offer solutions immediately and dismiss their feelings. Please STOP!

Avoid interrupting or judging their perspective.  Listen to what they’re saying and you’ll get valuable information on their fears, worries or thoughts which will give you a more detailed understanding of the reasons why they fear failure.

Lookout #3 Ask Open-Ended Questions

Engage in meaningful conversations by asking open-ended questions that encourage your child to express their thoughts and feelings. 

But remember to avoid leading or judgmental questions. Give them space and allow them to share their perspective without feeling pressured.

Examples of open-ended questions:

  1. “Can you share with me about a time when you felt unsure or worried about trying something new or challenging. What was going through your mind?”
  2. “How do you feel when you make a mistake or don’t achieve the outcome you were hoping for? What are the thoughts that come to your mind?”
  3. “Can you share with me any activities or situations that make you feel particularly anxious or nervous? What do you think is causing that fear?”

Lookout #4 Validate and Empathize

Demonstrate empathy and understanding towards your child’s fears. Let them know that their feelings are valid and that many people, including adults, experience fear of failure. This validation creates a safe space for them to open up further.

For instance, if your child shows anxiety or worry about a certain task or situation, you may respond to them by saying,

I understand that you feel scared about trying this new activity.” 

Tell them it’s a normal feeling, and you want them to know you’re here for them. By acknowledging your child’s emotion without diminishing or ignoring it, you can help them open up and feel understood. This compassionate reaction demonstrates to them that you share their concerns and that you are available to help them get through it.

Lookout #5 Encourage Reflection and Self-Expression 

Help your child explore and reflect on their thoughts and emotions related to failure. Encourage them to express themselves through writing, drawing, or other creative means. This can provide insights into their fears and underlying reasons.

If you encourage them to express themselves through drawing, provide them with art supplies and suggest they create a picture or a series of drawings that represent how they feel about failure. Let them freely express their emotions and thoughts on paper without judgment or correction. 

After they are done, sit down with them and ask open-ended questions about their artwork, such as 

“What does this drawing mean to you?” or
“Can you tell me more about the colors and symbols you used?” 

This activity allows your child to tap into their creativity and subconscious, providing valuable insights into their fears and underlying reasons behind their fear of failure.

Lookout #6 Seek Professional Guidance if Needed

Consider speaking with a mental health professional if you have done everything mentioned above and your child’s well-being or everyday functioning is being negatively impacted by your child’s fear of failing. They can offer extra assistance, direction, and methods that are adapted to the particular requirements of your child.

Conclusion

Remember, understanding the reasons behind a child’s fear of failure takes time and patience. Each child is unique, and their fears may stem from various factors. Read more about my personal experience on how I started exploring ways to help my child overcame his fear when he was young

It’s natural to want the best for them and shield them from pain or disappointment.  We can feel our hearts hurt by the thought that they’re going to struggle or miss out on opportunities. Know this isn’t your own journey, please. 

By employing the above strategies, parents can gain valuable insights into our children’s perspective, paving the way for targeted support and strategies to help them overcome their fear and thrive.


Which strategies from this blog resonate with you the most? How do you envision implementing them in your parenting approach?

PS: Leave a comment or questions if you have any. 

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