Your Letters & Pictures

Handling failure (for Parents) by Dr. Alan Goldberg

Your child has failed! You're in the car with them on the way home. There's so much that you want to say. In this wonderful teaching moment with your child, what's the best thing to do? How would an appropriate parent handle this situation? Choose from the selection below?

a) Let your child know that she's let you down and totally embarrassed
you and herself.
b) Inform your child that she will not be fed dinner tonight
c) Remind your offspring that she's blowing your chances for a college
scholarship that you both have been working towards.
d) Help your child technically understand what she did wrong and exactly what she needs to do to improve for next time.
e) All of the above

Hopefully you understand that answers "a-e" are all wrong. D is not the right answer. It is not your job to critique or coach your child after a loss or setback. So what should you do when your child fails, when they blow the game winning kick, miss those critical last second free throws or end up dead last?First let's start with what not to do:

1) Don't offer helpful advice about what they did wrong. (That's the
coach's job). If they sincerely ask for your feedback and can use it without
getting defensive then it's fine to say something. Otherwise, mum's the word.
2) Don't criticize your child in any way for failing. (Coach's job again)
3) Don't express (verbally or non-verbally) your disappointment in them.
4) Don't make excuses for their failure by blaming the ref, opponent or coach, etc. (This will not teach your child how to be responsible or a good sport).
5) Don't tell them how proud you are that they did a "fine" job when
they didn't.
6) Don't get angry with them or ask them why they failed. (I've never
met an athlete that wants to fail).
7) Don't try to make them feel better. (They've earned the right to feel
badly and they are entitled to feel that way for a time).

Understand that failure is a very important part of your child's learning experience. Try not to take the experience of failure away from them. One of the hardest things for parents to do is to watch their children fail. Don't worry. Failure will make them smarter and stronger. After all, it worked for you, didn't it? So enough about what not to do. What should you do when your child fails?

1. Do let your child be upset. Disappointment is fine. They earned it, let' em feel it as long as they deal with it appropriately. (Being a poor
sport, breaking equipment or fighting are not appropriate ways of handling disappointment and failure).
2. Do be understanding at the right time. Right after a loss is frequently not the best time to offer your understanding. Better to wait an hour or two before you say anything.
3. Do be empathic. Let them know that you know how they feel (take the time to figure this out) and that their feelings make sense given the
4. Do offer a perspective on the performance, i.e. sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Let them know bad performances are just part of sports. Everybody has them!
5. Do be emotionally supportive. Your primary job with your child in
relation to their sports is to be their "best fan."
6. Do help your child learn from the loss or failure. Teach them the
value of failure as the necessary feedback to improve. Teach them that success is built on a strong foundation of failure. Ask them what lessons they can learn from this particular failure.
7. Do keep their sport in perspective and treat their losses and
failures for what they are, a learning opportunity and nothing more. The
outcome of a game, race or match is not larger than life. Help them see this.
8. Do let them know that the important things in their lives have not changed and that you love them no matter what.
9. Do encourage them to talk with the coach later on about what they
might be able to do to improve or correct in their performance.
10. Do take them for ice cream anyway!!!

Believe it or not your child's failure provides you with a wonderful teaching opportunity. Helping children learn to master and utilize failures and setbacks is giving them the gift of success in everything that they'll do in their life!

Dr. Alan Goldberg


For a great teaching tool for parents and coaches listen to Dr. G's Parent's and Coach's Guide to Winning at the Youth Sports Game. If you want to really help your child feel and perform like a winner this audio-cassette program is for you! Do you know an athlete who is stuck in a slump, blocked by fears or consistently underachieving? Do you know someone who always seems to perform better in practice than in competition? I can help them with my special, mental toughness phone consultation service! My specialty is getting athletes unstuck and back on track. My book, Sports Slump Busting, is based on the work that I've done with thousands of athletes at every level. I know what you're thinking. How can talking on the phone for 4-6 weeks to a total stranger possibly help an athlete improve their performance? Well don't just take my word for it! Visit my web site, click on individual consultation and read what other athletes, coaches and parents have to say about my mental toughness training.


Dear readers, Iíd like to underline that I DONíT HAVE ANY COMMERCIAL INTEREST IN SUGGESTING THIS. Itís only a way to thank Dr. Goldberg for his kindness in letting me reprint his articles to spread the knowledge.

Coach Gianni

Posted on 08 Nov 2006 by coachgianni
Content Management Powered by CuteNews