4 Ways Failure Can Benefit Your Child

Failure is not only a part of life, it’s necessary. The next time your child faces one of life’s struggles, don’t fret—instead embrace it.

Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #503

2. Helps You Handle Life’s Setbacks

One of my favorite mantras has always been: "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." I think the saying resonates with me so well because of the way I was raised. As the oldest of five children (all close in age) I earned myself a leadership role without even trying. I was mature by nature and didn’t shy away from a challenge, probably because I had more responsibility than most kids my age.

Our kids face all kinds of setbacks on a regular basis. Whether it be they don’t get placed on the soccer team with all their friends and instead are with kids they hardly know, or they have a boss at their very first job who berates them for not being fast enough processing orders in the drive-thru window—if we allow them to experience these downers, they will figure out how to adapt and build a stronger backbone.

I love bestselling author J.K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech about how her life’s challenges were what helped her write the Harry Potter stories. She recounted how disapproving parents, a devastating divorce, virtual poverty, and repeated rejections gave her insight into what it takes to overcome life’s biggest obstacles. "Life is difficult and complicated and beyond anyone’s total control. Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life," she told the audience.

Another well-known example of how failure can be a powerful driving force is the story of legendary NBA player Michael Jordan's rise. He tried out for the varsity basketball team in high school and wasn’t chosen. He was devastated and almost gave up the game completely, but his mother convinced him to take advantage of not making varsity and instead work like crazy to improve his game. He did just that and let failure fuel the passion for becoming the best basketball player he could possibly be. And the rest is history!

When our kids know that famous authors and athletes have built successful lives after facing adversity, it can help them realize that it’s OK and totally possible to fail at something and then move on to success. It helps build character and better decision making skills. The year my son was placed on a soccer team without having a single friend in his midst was one of the best things that ever happened to him. He didn’t have buddies to hang out and goof around with so instead he focused on improving his own game. Eventually he became friends with boys from the other town, and at the same time he built up a lot of self-confidence because he learned how to stand out alone. He went on to play on competitive travel teams and earn a varsity spot as a freshman.

3. Failure Encourages Growth

Most families with more than one child will easily tell you how different their kids are. Personality traits, academic skills, athleticism, and overall confidence can be so diverse in a sibling group that parents often wonder how their own flesh and blood can possibly be related. I know that’s the case with my eight kids.

I have a complete range of stellar students, high-achievers, top athletes as well as fun-loving daydreamers, creative types that have no clue how the game of football is played, and humanitarians that want to save the world and could care less what kind of car they drive. (Totally refreshing!)

As a parent I am completely passionate about my kids' successes. As I’ve shared in the past, three of my children were diagnosed with significant speech delays and therefore had to overcome pretty big obstacles in simple communication, obstacles that the majority of kids will never have to face.


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!