Blog Archives

Helping Children Respond to Failure

Gary Brackett, former Middle Linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts recently posted on Twitter & Instagram, “I never fail, either I win or I learn.”

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you prevented a child from failing to protect them from feelings of disappointment?  You aren’t alone! As a parent I’ve made the mistake of protecting both of my children from failure.  As an elementary school administrator, I observe parents swooping in to save the day often. In this post, I will challenge our thinking to realize protecting our kids from disappointment, adversity, or failure is not a form of love. According to Foster Cline and Jim Fay, the authors of Parenting with Love and Logic, many parents confuse love, protection, and caring.

The truth is, caring for our children doesn’t imply we protect them from every potential mistake they’ll ever make.  Cline and Fay state that parents who do over protect in an unhealthy way do it more for themselves out of their own selfish needs.  Do you agree?  If Sarah forgets her lunchbox, is it the end of the world if she has to choose a school lunch as a natural consequence?  What lessons are we teaching her about being responsible if you leave work because we are so close to the school and rescue Sarah from the natural consequence of her actions? Why does a worried mom or dad feel responsible for Sarah’s forgetfulness?  If Joey forgets his project that is due for math class, but forgets it on the kitchen table after working on the final touches after breakfast, should you take it to him?  The answer is no.  If children, from a young age, are taught to address and effectively handle their emotions when a disappointment happens then they are more likely to become resilient and responsible young adults.  Most research says that children at the age of 9 months old begin learning the difference between right and wrong, yes and no, and the feelings associated with both.  Let’s face it, our children will certainly face disappointment, adversity, and even failure.

When our children encounter situations of disappointment, adversity, or failure, it is more about how we respond as adults.  If we swoop in and save the day when their is a potential for disappointment, we starve our kids from the experience they need to practice resiliency.  One of the most important things we as parents and teachers can teach our children is that failure is not embarrassing, nor does it bring shame to them, their classroom, school, or family.  Meeting children with empathy, love, and support during this time is more important. I’ve found many great resources online and in print that help our children turn mistakes into opportunities!  Our children need to believe they are amazing beyond their performance in that game or the grade they received on that project because responsible children feel good about themselves.  A caution to all of us, children learn to feel love and acceptance from the caring adults in their lives.  Let’s make sure the only way our children don’t receive love is when they are doing well.  It is equally important to share our love in tough times.

If you’d like more resources on Parenting with Love and Logic or helping children respond to failure, click the links below:

Parenting with Love and Logic By Foster Cline, MD & Jim Fay

Perfectly Imperfect:  Tips for Helping Kids Deal with Failure

How to Help Kids Overcome Fear of Failure  By Vicki Zakrzewski

Sincerely yours,



Resolving Conflict at School

We are off to a great start this school year, and after three days we’ve handled our share of conflict.  Inevitably, conflict will arise in our school community.  Let’s face it, not everyone will be happy with every decision made by teachers or principals.  In this post, we’ll discuss a few key ideas for managing conflict to yield the best results for all involved.  For our purposes as a school community we will use the following definition of conflict.  Conflict is a form of friction, disagreement, or discord arising within a group or by an individual.  While there are many types of conflict, we’ll use that definition as the one to describe most the conflict we see in schools.

iStock_000007773642XSmallConflict2Here are some key ideas to remember in order to resolve conflict when it arises:

 Identify the Root of Your Conflict

The first key idea to successful conflict resolution sounds simple; however, many times it is not.  Over time every student, parent, or teacher has interactions with others that may feed future conflict.  Unresolved conflict from the past will compound the current issues.  Before attempting to communicate with the other party, first identify the conflict without allowing the past to impact the current situation.  I remember my mom teaching me from a very young age that it was better to handle one situation, or conflict, at a time because if you don’t you’ll only be more emotional when you finally decide to deal with it.

Remove the Emotion

Too many times I have observed adults allow their emotions to be the driving force in communication as they attempt to resolve conflict.  If given the opportunity, children respond in this way as well.  The second key idea to successful conflict resolution is to get your emotions in check.  Whether the situation has made you angry or sad, heightened emotion will only decrease your ability to decide which are the right questions to ask.  Only by asking the right questions will you get the information you need in order to move to the next key idea, which is listening to understand.

Listening to Understand 

Ok, let’s be honest.  This one is really difficult.  It may be the most difficult of our key ideas to implement in the process of conflict resolution. Remember, if we’ve made it to this key idea we have identified our issue and removed the emotion we feel in order to ask the right questions. We have a strategy to teach this in schools, and I have included it below.  Using I statements, children begin to process their emotions and communicate what it is they want and need from those around them.  As adults, we need to ask questions in order to seek answers.  Remember, though, that even if we ask the right questions it is for the sole purpose of listening to the answers.  Many adults, myself included, are guilty of listening to respond in order to get what they want.  Truly listening, especially when we are in conflict, is essential to be able to determine if there are ways to negotiate a solution.

Click below for a strategy for helping children with conflict resolution:

Negotiate a Solution

By the time we make it to this key idea, both parties clearly understand the conflict.  It is likely both sides understand the position of the other, and a mutual solution may be clear to all.  If there isn’t a clear solution at this time, the conversation may have revealed fundamental differences in your position.  If this is the case, it is important to find a win-win compromise when possible.

Will there be times during our school year where you feel as if our concerns weren’t heard?  It is our goal to say, “No!”  Remember, there are a few principles present in our approach to resolving conflict:  be calm, be patient, and have respect.  Many times resolving conflict is more about the approach taken than the solution, because when both sides of conflict seek to understand each other many times that mutually agreed solution becomes crystal clear!

 Sincerely Yours,