At the top of my list of Christian parenting tips is the need to teach kids how to handle failure.
In making this point to your children, consider that most children have heard of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln once said, “I do the very best I know how — the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so.” Despite the fact that Lincoln consistently tried to do his best, he experienced many failures.
Consider this brief chronology of Lincoln’s career.
1832 — Defeated for Legislature
1838 — Defeated for Speaker
1840 — Defeated for Elector
1848 — Defeated for Congress
1855 — Defeated for Senate
1856 — Defeated for Vice-President
1858 — Defeated for Senate
1860 — ELECTED PRESIDENT
Lincoln had a lot of failures before he had any success. Even the people that we like to think of as being most successful have often had plenty of failures in their lives. It’s important for kids to understand this, for sometimes with their limited perspective, they get the feeling that only they fail at things. Failure is common to all humanity.
We need to allow our children the freedom to fail. They should have the “space” to have ups and downs in their lives, because it is in their failures that they will learn the most. As pastor Erwin Lutzer once put it, “Often the doorway to success is entered through the hallway of failure.”
Jesus allowed His disciples the freedom to fail. In each case the failing disciple learned an important lesson. For example, Jesus allowed Peter to sink into the water so he would learn to keep his eyes on Christ (Matthew 14:28-31).
In allowing our children the freedom to experience failure, they learn what works and what does not work in life. This is so valuable for them!
A Principle to Remember: We can learn from our failures.
Biblical Basis: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Did you know that Thomas Edison was once mocked for unsuccessfully trying 5,000 different materials for the filament of the lightbulb he was trying to invent? Someone told him, “You failed 5,000 times.”
Edison quickly countered, “I have not failed. I have discovered 5,000 materials that won’t work.”
Edison learned from his experiences and moved on to success.
~ Shortcut to Understanding ~
Free free to share this with your child:
Did You Know?...
• Did you know that Willie Mays struck out his first 29 times at bat before he became one of the greatest major league batters of all time?
• Did you know that Jim Abbott was born with only one hand, but he pitched the victorious Gold Medal game for the United States Olympic team?
• Did you know that Michael Jordan was cut from his ninth-grade basketball team because he wasn’t good enough, but later became one of the greatest basketball players in the world?
• Did you know that Warren Moon’s junior-high coach said he “stunk” as a quarterback, but later became one of the greatest quarterbacks in the world?
• Did you know that Joe Montana was knocked out of the game “permanently” before he led the 49ers to a Super Bowl championship?
In each case the individual learned something from his failure and went on to become a success.
So, next time you fail, remember that failure can be a learning experience that can eventually lead you to success.
Of course, we as parents shouldn’t just let our children experience failure and leave it at that. We need to teach them appropriate ways of handling failure. We need to model for them appropriate ways of handling failure.
In an office building, I once saw one of those huge screens on which a “message for the day” was flashed. On that particular day the message was, “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you ever tried.”
That’s not a healthy attitude. As we noted above, some of our greatest victories will come out of our failures — as was true with the famous personalities listed above. And as we model for our children how we ourselves handle failures, we teach them an invaluable lesson that will stick with them throughout life!
 Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations (Rockville, MD: Assurance, 1985), p. 1373.
 Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1992), p. 197.
 Howard Hendricks, Heaven Help the Home! (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1982), p. 61.
 Kathi Hudson, Raising Kids God’s Way (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1995), p. 197.
 Adapted from Joe White, FaithTraining (Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family Publishing, 1994), p. 226.
— Dr. Ron Rhodes