Your child’s been training for months to make the high school first XI soccer team.
They’ve spent hours training after school, practising their tricks at home, and showing off their skills at friendlies in their bid for a spot.
They’re passionate. They’re dedicated. And they’ve worked hard.
The thing is, your spidey senses are tingling.
It’s starting to dawn on you that, despite your child’s impassioned efforts and dedication, they might juuuuuuust miss out.
Seeing your child fail and the anguish it causes them is tough for any parent.
But before your heart sinks too far, bear with us.
There are ways you can support your child if they feel like they’ve failed – be it an exam, not making a sports team, not getting the ATAR they so desperately wanted or not getting into their uni course they had their heart set on.
Alan Kazdin, professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University told TIME that when a child fails, parents should focus on two things.
“The first is comfort,” Kazdin said.
“Parents need to convey how much they care and can be relied upon. This may seem a little obvious, and so most parents stop there.”
But there is a second important goal and that’s guiding your child in learning how to utilise failure to build persistence and grit – both of which ultimately turn the failure into a win.
After all, “persistence is what drives actions such as finishing a task, pushing through frustration, putting in time and effort, or finding creative approaches to a challenging problem,” Kazdin says.
“The ability to keep trying early in life is linked to all sorts of favourable outcomes years later, according to research—including a greater likelihood to succeed in schools, careers and personal relationships.”
But what does all this look like, exactly?
First of all, as Kazdin told TIME, you need to lead by example and model what persistence looks like.
“We know that children, even infants, are sensitive to how their guardians behave. But good modelling does not just happen. It is more effective when planned and carried out with a specific goal such as developing honesty, altruism or, yes, persistence in mind,” he said.
Kazdin says one way to achieve this is to communicate your own challenges and how you’re going to attempt to overcome them.
“It helps if the parent narrates what he or she is trying to accomplish out loud, and talks about any new approach to the goal: ‘Hmm, that did not work. Let me try another way.’”
And when you see your own child doing this?
“But do not do this just for marathon-like struggles, in which the child sacrifices play time or a meal or socialising with friends. Praise even the smallest signs of effort.”