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Parenting & Family Tools by Ron Huxley, LMFT

Are you the type of parent you thought you would be? Has your family turned out like you dreamed? If not, let Ron Huxley and the resources of the Parenting Toolbox help you heal and restore that dream family today.

Media and Consultations: rehuxley@gmail.com

Check out some other blogs by Ron:

ParentingToolbox.com

Inner Healing

Laughter Therapy
DIY Parent

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Big Boys Do Cry

Ron Huxley, LMFT

Get a number of parents in a room and ask them about their children’s behavior and you will begin to hear a common theme that boys behave differently than girls. It’s news in the media too; it seems, with all of the talk about our Emotional IQ (usually referring to a male’s lack of) or how men are from Mars and women from Venus. Sit in on an online chat room for parents or an email discussion list on male/female relationships and it won’t be long before you see some retort about how “men can’t express their feelings” or “boys acting out their aggression.” All of it focuses on how men struggle with their emotional self.

As a man, I won’t deny it’s true. Even the men I have talked with, be they friends or patients in my office, will agree with it. The rub is that while men accept this fact they feel helpless to change it. That’s because we are caught in a double bind, put on us by society, the other gender, and ourselves. The double bind says that we should be more in touch with our emotions and yet, at the same time, be tough, macho, Mr. Fix-It, and the Family Provider. We are asked to be in touch with our “feminine” side and still retain our “Male” strength.

Add the problem that most men never had adequate male role models in life, or if they did, they weren’t emotionally available one’s, and you end up with a fairly confused man or son about the emotional nature of manhood. William Pollack, Ph.D., in his book, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of states that the consequence of this confusion for males includes higher rates of depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, and substance abuse. It’s ironic that male’s confusion about expressing emotion leads to emotional problems. He goes on to state that in order to survive this confusion, boys learn “the code” that to be a man you must pretend to “feel nothing.”

Of course, it’s not possible to “feel nothing.” The best example comes from the biggest complaint about male’s behaviors, namely, that they are too competitive and aggressive. Boys are much more likely to be diagnosed as conduct disordered learning disabled, and attention deficit. Statistics are also higher for violent crimes and fighting among males. They are also more likely to be medicated for these disorders to decrease their aggressive behaviors. Dr. Pollack feels that males are given an “emotional funnel” to express their feelings. All of their emotions: sadness, fear, anxiety, and frustration is translated into one emotion: Anger!

Anger is the most common emotion expressed by males. That is because men and boys feel more accepted by society when they express anger over what is considered to be the more “feminine” emotions. Here is the double-bind again: we ask males to manage their anger which is the only socially acceptable emotion to express and that emotion turns out to be a cover-up for other emotions, such as sadness or powerlessness. Anger or aggressive behaviors, are just the symptom. The source may be any number of hidden, indirect emotions.

So what do males do with this double bind? If we agree that we have trouble expressing our emotions, and that creates trouble for us relationally and socially, how do we get out of trouble? First, we start with understanding the true nature of emotions and then society must demonstrate an acceptance of those emotions in boys and men.

The Emotional Brain

If we look at emotions from purely a physiological standpoint, they turn out to be some of the most fundamental parts of our brain. Researchers have determined that our emotions are controlled in the brain stem, which regulates our involuntary functions and the middle area of our brain, which controls our basic drives, such as eating, and sleeping. Emotions come from and are related to some of the most primitive and primary areas of our brains.

According to Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., in his book, Emotional IQ, our emotions are designed to “motivate” or move us forward in life. Each emotion has a particular purpose in our personal evolution. Anger serves to give us the energy and strength necessary to change a situation, fear allows us to focus on the threat at-hand and evaluate a course of action, happiness increases energy and decreases inhibitions to achieve goals, love creates satisfaction and a state of rest or contentment, surprise allows us to take in more information about an unexpected event, disgust expresses a need to avoid an undesirable event or food, and sadness slows us down to adjust to a major disappointment and find solace in familiar people and places.

Dr. Goleman goes on to acknowledge that while males and females have the same emotional capacity, they are taught very different lessons about how to handle their emotions. Parents tend to discuss emotions more with daughters than sons. In studies of parents telling their children stories, girls are told stories more heavily laden with emotional words and situations than are boys. Mothers display a wider range of emotions when playing with their daughters than when they are playing with their sons. And even when parents talk to their children about emotions, they use more emotional descriptions with girls than with boys.

Research has also shown that girls develop language skills much sooner than boys and are more articulate when it comes to expressing themselves emotionally. This natural advantage and the de-emphasis on emotional training for boys, lead males to communicate their emotions behaviorally. This may be why so many boys get into fights, play competitive sports, or act aggressively towards others. It is their way of communicating their feelings. And anger is the socially acceptable spokesperson for all of those feelings, be they positive or negative. Perhaps the answer to the emotional double bind, experienced by boys and men, are to provide males with the missing Emotional IQ training. Teaching males to understand and express their emotions increases their Emotional IQ, according to Dr. Goleman and other researchers. It is this Emotional IQ that provides success at school, work, or home - wherever human relations are necessary.

Emotional IQ Training

Howard Gardner, a psychologist at the Harvard School of Education, has suggested that there are many different types of intelligence, not just academic (linguistic and math) one’s. He refers to these as talents that all children possess, male or female. Being able to use these talents is what makes people successful and satisfied in life. Peter Salovey, another psychologist, refines Gardner’s talents into five main domains of emotional intelligence: Knowing one’s emotions, Managing emotions, Motivating oneself, Recognizing emotions in others, and Handling relationships. Making these domains a part of every boy’s daily curriculum is essential if we want to help boys increase their Emotional IQ and become the fathers and husband’s society desires. Another way of saying it is, if we want males to be more expressive emotionally, we have to give them the “right tools to do the job.”

Where do we start? The most natural place is the home. And the most natural person is dad. It stands to reason, that if we want to teach real boys to be real men, then we need to utilize our most natural and powerful resources. We also need to be more conscious about what and how we are teaching emotional literacy to our sons and take a more active approach in doing so. And these Emotional IQ skills must be socially sanctioned in order for the new skills to take root and grow.

Dr. Pollack suggests that we give our sons undivided attention every day. This means full attention, not partial or half. Don’t engage in cooking, cleaning, reading or anything else that might detract from the attention giving. Dads don’t always have to talk when giving attention either. Playing a game or working on a project, side-by-side, with minimal words is enough. Jerrold Lee Shapiro, Ph.D, in his book, The Measure of a Man: Becoming the Father You Wish Your Father Had Been, states that while men and women experience emotions similarly, they may share those emotions differently. Men, due to past Emotional IQ training, are used to indirectly communicating with one another. This is what, Dr. Shapiro calls “side-by-side” or “shoulder-to-shoulder” communication. Moms tend to prefer the more “face-to-face”, direct approach.

Dr. Shapiro talks about the different styles of communicating emotions by men and women: “Men have long been criticized for either having no feelings or having the wrong ones, or being unable to describe them. It is true that males in our society are trained to deny, ignore, cover up, and rise above feelings. However, we do have them all the time. It is important that we express our feelings to our children in male ways. It is customary for men to be most open, for example, while they are working on a joint project together (i.e., shoulder to shoulder).”

It is also important that mom’s and dad’s encourage boys to express the full range of emotions. Past social conditioning that only some emotions, namely anger, are acceptable need to be removed. All emotions are valid. Be receptive to a baby’s sadness and discomfort as well as his cooing and giggles. Ask toddlers and school-age boys if they are feeling sad or tired and empathize with those feelings. Tell older boys that it is normal to feel awkward or anxious and have open discussions about his relationships with girls, other boys, siblings, teachers and family.

When boys do express themselves aggressively or act rambunctious, look below the anger. While it is true that boys, on the average, do play more aggressively, don’t let that prevent you from checking for underlying emotions of sadness or anxiety. Remember that acting out means just that. Boys often act out their feelings of hurt and loss. Labels those feelings for them if they are obvious or ask them about their feelings if they are not. Reflect on their behavior by stating, “You seem to be upset about this situation. I wonder if your are feelings hurt/sad/anxious by it.” Model complex feelings by admitting you often get angry when you feel these other emotions too. It is often difficult for young children to understand that people can have more than one emotion at a time.

Be willing to express your love and empathy openly and generously. Loving your son will not “baby” him, “spoil” him, or make him a “sissy.” It will make him more self-assured, confidant, and secure. When a dad is openly affectionate toward his son, a very deep message about manhood and emotions is communicated. Tell you son that you love him as much as you wish. Give him hugs and take opportunities to play with him.

Fatherless Homes And Father Hunger

What is a boy to do if there is no father or positive male role model available? The answer is two-fold: Model emotions yourself and/or borrow a positive male role model. Although the most powerful model of emotional literacy is between a dad and his son, mom’s can model healthy functioning too. Any and all adults, not just the biological father, can teach Emotional IQ. And if dad is absent, physically or emotionally, from the home, have your son join a mentoring program like Big Brothers or the Police Activity League. Ask around about organizations that provide positive role models for boys and check them out to determine if they are able to provide Emotional IQ training. Of course, they may not understand it as such, but watch what they do with your son and other boys to see if they are teaching it, by their actions. Recruit an uncle, grandfather, or other male relative to get together with your son one-day a week to go to the movies, build a model, or play catch. It is also possible to find a male, child therapist for your son. A child therapist can address the child’s issues (aggressive behavior, depression, anxiety, etc.), consult with the parent about how to increase a child’s Emotional IQ, and be an adequate male role model at the same time. While you are not trying to replace dad or build an unhealthy dependence on the therapist, a male therapist can provide that essential ingredient some boys needs and can’t get from a female therapist.

Dr. Shapiro talks about this essential ingredient as “father hunger.” Coined by James Herzog, a psychoanalyst, to describe the psychological damage in young children who were deprived of their fathers love and attention. These children were determined to be more aggressive and had trouble controlling their impulses. They also tend to be more immature and needy. Older children, who suffer from this “father hunger” are more likely to attempt suicide, run away, malinger, and manipulate others.

The satisfaction of this hunger is to find adequate father substitutes. Even men, who did not have emotionally available fathers or grew up in single parent homes without a father, can find other men who act as mentors or role models about how to be a high Emotional IQ dad. Even haphazard attempts at emotional functioning are better than nothing. Most children are fairly forgiving and willing to learn how to be healthy males together. Contrary to popular opinion, I think that children learn as much, if not more, from healthy male failures as their successes. Covering up our failures only reinforces the old “boy code” that we feel nothing or must always be right, tough, and macho.

Big Boys Do Cry

Ron Huxley, LMFT

Get a number of parents in a room and ask them about their children’s behavior and you will begin to hear a common theme that boys behave differently than girls. It’s news in the media too; it seems, with all of the talk about our Emotional IQ (usually referring to a male’s lack of) or how men are from Mars and women from Venus. Sit in on an online chat room for parents or an email discussion list on male/female relationships and it won’t be long before you see some retort about how “men can’t express their feelings” or “boys acting out their aggression.” All of it focuses on how men struggle with their emotional self.

As a man, I won’t deny it’s true. Even the men I have talked with, be they friends or patients in my office, will agree with it. The rub is that while men accept this fact they feel helpless to change it. That’s because we are caught in a double bind, put on us by society, the other gender, and ourselves. The double bind says that we should be more in touch with our emotions and yet, at the same time, be tough, macho, Mr. Fix-It, and the Family Provider. We are asked to be in touch with our “feminine” side and still retain our “Male” strength.

Add the problem that most men never had adequate male role models in life, or if they did, they weren’t emotionally available one’s, and you end up with a fairly confused man or son about the emotional nature of manhood. William Pollack, Ph.D., in his book, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of states that the consequence of this confusion for males includes higher rates of depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, and substance abuse. It’s ironic that male’s confusion about expressing emotion leads to emotional problems. He goes on to state that in order to survive this confusion, boys learn “the code” that to be a man you must pretend to “feel nothing.”

Of course, it’s not possible to “feel nothing.” The best example comes from the biggest complaint about male’s behaviors, namely, that they are too competitive and aggressive. Boys are much more likely to be diagnosed as conduct disordered learning disabled, and attention deficit. Statistics are also higher for violent crimes and fighting among males. They are also more likely to be medicated for these disorders to decrease their aggressive behaviors. Dr. Pollack feels that males are given an “emotional funnel” to express their feelings. All of their emotions: sadness, fear, anxiety, and frustration is translated into one emotion: Anger!

Anger is the most common emotion expressed by males. That is because men and boys feel more accepted by society when they express anger over what is considered to be the more “feminine” emotions. Here is the double-bind again: we ask males to manage their anger which is the only socially acceptable emotion to express and that emotion turns out to be a cover-up for other emotions, such as sadness or powerlessness. Anger or aggressive behaviors, are just the symptom. The source may be any number of hidden, indirect emotions.

So what do males do with this double bind? If we agree that we have trouble expressing our emotions, and that creates trouble for us relationally and socially, how do we get out of trouble? First, we start with understanding the true nature of emotions and then society must demonstrate an acceptance of those emotions in boys and men.

The Emotional Brain

If we look at emotions from purely a physiological standpoint, they turn out to be some of the most fundamental parts of our brain. Researchers have determined that our emotions are controlled in the brain stem, which regulates our involuntary functions and the middle area of our brain, which controls our basic drives, such as eating, and sleeping. Emotions come from and are related to some of the most primitive and primary areas of our brains.

According to Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., in his book, Emotional IQ, our emotions are designed to “motivate” or move us forward in life. Each emotion has a particular purpose in our personal evolution. Anger serves to give us the energy and strength necessary to change a situation, fear allows us to focus on the threat at-hand and evaluate a course of action, happiness increases energy and decreases inhibitions to achieve goals, love creates satisfaction and a state of rest or contentment, surprise allows us to take in more information about an unexpected event, disgust expresses a need to avoid an undesirable event or food, and sadness slows us down to adjust to a major disappointment and find solace in familiar people and places.

Dr. Goleman goes on to acknowledge that while males and females have the same emotional capacity, they are taught very different lessons about how to handle their emotions. Parents tend to discuss emotions more with daughters than sons. In studies of parents telling their children stories, girls are told stories more heavily laden with emotional words and situations than are boys. Mothers display a wider range of emotions when playing with their daughters than when they are playing with their sons. And even when parents talk to their children about emotions, they use more emotional descriptions with girls than with boys.

Research has also shown that girls develop language skills much sooner than boys and are more articulate when it comes to expressing themselves emotionally. This natural advantage and the de-emphasis on emotional training for boys, lead males to communicate their emotions behaviorally. This may be why so many boys get into fights, play competitive sports, or act aggressively towards others. It is their way of communicating their feelings. And anger is the socially acceptable spokesperson for all of those feelings, be they positive or negative. Perhaps the answer to the emotional double bind, experienced by boys and men, are to provide males with the missing Emotional IQ training. Teaching males to understand and express their emotions increases their Emotional IQ, according to Dr. Goleman and other researchers. It is this Emotional IQ that provides success at school, work, or home - wherever human relations are necessary.

Emotional IQ Training

Howard Gardner, a psychologist at the Harvard School of Education, has suggested that there are many different types of intelligence, not just academic (linguistic and math) one’s. He refers to these as talents that all children possess, male or female. Being able to use these talents is what makes people successful and satisfied in life. Peter Salovey, another psychologist, refines Gardner’s talents into five main domains of emotional intelligence: Knowing one’s emotions, Managing emotions, Motivating oneself, Recognizing emotions in others, and Handling relationships. Making these domains a part of every boy’s daily curriculum is essential if we want to help boys increase their Emotional IQ and become the fathers and husband’s society desires. Another way of saying it is, if we want males to be more expressive emotionally, we have to give them the “right tools to do the job.”

Where do we start? The most natural place is the home. And the most natural person is dad. It stands to reason, that if we want to teach real boys to be real men, then we need to utilize our most natural and powerful resources. We also need to be more conscious about what and how we are teaching emotional literacy to our sons and take a more active approach in doing so. And these Emotional IQ skills must be socially sanctioned in order for the new skills to take root and grow.

Dr. Pollack suggests that we give our sons undivided attention every day. This means full attention, not partial or half. Don’t engage in cooking, cleaning, reading or anything else that might detract from the attention giving. Dads don’t always have to talk when giving attention either. Playing a game or working on a project, side-by-side, with minimal words is enough. Jerrold Lee Shapiro, Ph.D, in his book, The Measure of a Man: Becoming the Father You Wish Your Father Had Been, states that while men and women experience emotions similarly, they may share those emotions differently. Men, due to past Emotional IQ training, are used to indirectly communicating with one another. This is what, Dr. Shapiro calls “side-by-side” or “shoulder-to-shoulder” communication. Moms tend to prefer the more “face-to-face”, direct approach.

Dr. Shapiro talks about the different styles of communicating emotions by men and women: “Men have long been criticized for either having no feelings or having the wrong ones, or being unable to describe them. It is true that males in our society are trained to deny, ignore, cover up, and rise above feelings. However, we do have them all the time. It is important that we express our feelings to our children in male ways. It is customary for men to be most open, for example, while they are working on a joint project together (i.e., shoulder to shoulder).”

It is also important that mom’s and dad’s encourage boys to express the full range of emotions. Past social conditioning that only some emotions, namely anger, are acceptable need to be removed. All emotions are valid. Be receptive to a baby’s sadness and discomfort as well as his cooing and giggles. Ask toddlers and school-age boys if they are feeling sad or tired and empathize with those feelings. Tell older boys that it is normal to feel awkward or anxious and have open discussions about his relationships with girls, other boys, siblings, teachers and family.

When boys do express themselves aggressively or act rambunctious, look below the anger. While it is true that boys, on the average, do play more aggressively, don’t let that prevent you from checking for underlying emotions of sadness or anxiety. Remember that acting out means just that. Boys often act out their feelings of hurt and loss. Labels those feelings for them if they are obvious or ask them about their feelings if they are not. Reflect on their behavior by stating, “You seem to be upset about this situation. I wonder if your are feelings hurt/sad/anxious by it.” Model complex feelings by admitting you often get angry when you feel these other emotions too. It is often difficult for young children to understand that people can have more than one emotion at a time.

Be willing to express your love and empathy openly and generously. Loving your son will not “baby” him, “spoil” him, or make him a “sissy.” It will make him more self-assured, confidant, and secure. When a dad is openly affectionate toward his son, a very deep message about manhood and emotions is communicated. Tell you son that you love him as much as you wish. Give him hugs and take opportunities to play with him.

Fatherless Homes And Father Hunger

What is a boy to do if there is no father or positive male role model available? The answer is two-fold: Model emotions yourself and/or borrow a positive male role model. Although the most powerful model of emotional literacy is between a dad and his son, mom’s can model healthy functioning too. Any and all adults, not just the biological father, can teach Emotional IQ. And if dad is absent, physically or emotionally, from the home, have your son join a mentoring program like Big Brothers or the Police Activity League. Ask around about organizations that provide positive role models for boys and check them out to determine if they are able to provide Emotional IQ training. Of course, they may not understand it as such, but watch what they do with your son and other boys to see if they are teaching it, by their actions. Recruit an uncle, grandfather, or other male relative to get together with your son one-day a week to go to the movies, build a model, or play catch. It is also possible to find a male, child therapist for your son. A child therapist can address the child’s issues (aggressive behavior, depression, anxiety, etc.), consult with the parent about how to increase a child’s Emotional IQ, and be an adequate male role model at the same time. While you are not trying to replace dad or build an unhealthy dependence on the therapist, a male therapist can provide that essential ingredient some boys needs and can’t get from a female therapist.

Dr. Shapiro talks about this essential ingredient as “father hunger.” Coined by James Herzog, a psychoanalyst, to describe the psychological damage in young children who were deprived of their fathers love and attention. These children were determined to be more aggressive and had trouble controlling their impulses. They also tend to be more immature and needy. Older children, who suffer from this “father hunger” are more likely to attempt suicide, run away, malinger, and manipulate others.

The satisfaction of this hunger is to find adequate father substitutes. Even men, who did not have emotionally available fathers or grew up in single parent homes without a father, can find other men who act as mentors or role models about how to be a high Emotional IQ dad. Even haphazard attempts at emotional functioning are better than nothing. Most children are fairly forgiving and willing to learn how to be healthy males together. Contrary to popular opinion, I think that children learn as much, if not more, from healthy male failures as their successes. Covering up our failures only reinforces the old “boy code” that we feel nothing or must always be right, tough, and macho.

June is National Reunification Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of reuniting children and families after experiencing foster care. It is also a time to celebrate the professionals that help make reunification possible. National Reunification Month is sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law in an effort to bring positive attention to the successes of child welfare, promote quality practices and lead to constructive discussions about systemic needs. Celebrations will take place throughout the month of June, with most events occurring on or near Father’s Day, June 15.

Family Vacation Tip: Take a time cushion, to rest.

If you think it will take seven days for a vacation, plan for eight or nine. If you think it will take four hours to drive to your vacation spot, prepare for five or six. Taking a time cushion will allow you to rest and not be upset because you are late or lost. If you are a single parent, you have the job of two parents to do when on vacation. Be kind to yourself and over prepare. That extra sweater just may come in handy if someone gets theirs wet and need a new one. Those extra snacks may keep the wild things calm when you are trying to find the right turn off on the highway in the middle of the night after being hours on the road. Time cushions allow you to handle the stressors that occur when taking a nontraditional family vacation.

Keep your expectations low and your priorities high.

Why are you going on this vacation? I know it’s not because you love pain. Are you doing it for you, the children, or what? Answering this question will allow you to keep your expectations low and your priorities high. The higher your expectations the greater your chances of disappointment and anger. My wife and I have found that when we go on vacation with the children, it is about the children. We don’t try to have a romantic encounter with each other unless it happens unexpectantly. If we wanted that, we should have gone on vacation by ourselves. And sometimes we do.

Going on vacation is always unpredictable. That’s part of why we love to do it. It is different from the daily routine of work and taking care of the house. But it also away from the familiar. So be willing to take some risks and go with the flow. Be focused on your bottom line. If you want to see new things or have fun, there are many ways to have that. And most likely, it won’t be what you imagine. When you take the wrong highway or the kids get sick, remind yourself that you are doing something new and different. If not a little bit anxious.

Family Vacation Tip: It’s not about you…

More than 10,000 American toddlers 2 or 3 years old are being medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder outside established pediatric guidelines, according to data presented on Friday by an official at theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, which found that toddlers covered by Medicaid are particularly prone to be put on medication such asRitalin and Adderall, is among the first efforts to gauge the diagnosis of A.D.H.D. in children below age 4. Doctors at theGeorgia Mental Health Forum at the Carter Center in Atlanta, where the data was presented, as well as several outside experts strongly criticized the use of medication in so many children that young.

The American Academy of Pediatrics standard practice guidelines for A.D.H.D. do not even address the diagnosis in children 3 and younger — let alone the use of such stimulant medications, because their safety and effectiveness have barely been explored in that age group. “It’s absolutely shocking, and it shouldn’t be happening,” said Anita Zervigon-Hakes, a children’s mental health consultant to the Carter Center.

inspirationfeed:

The most important thing to teach is how to think, not what to think. http://ift.tt/1gYkAHg

Fear of failure among children in America today is at epidemic proportions. Fear of failure causes children to experience debilitating anxiety before they take a test, compete in a sport, or perform in a recital. It causes them to give less than their best effort, not take risks, and, ultimately, never achieve complete success.

Cause of Fear of Failure

Children get this destructive perspective on failure from American popular culture. Popular culture defines failure as being poor, anonymous, powerless, unpopular, or physically unattractive. On television and in the movies, the losers-nerds, unattractive people, poor athletes-are teased, bullied, and rejected. With this definition of failure, popular culture has created a culture of fear and avoidance of failure. It has conveyed to children that if they fail, they will be ostracized by their peers and branded as losers for life!

Parents Make Things Worse

Many parents have fallen under American popular culture’s spell of failure as well. They’ve compounded the harm that failure can inflict on children by also connecting their own love and approval with it. The message children get is “I won’t love you if you get bad grades.” They come to see failure as a threat to their personal and social standing.

The Stigma of Failure

There is no greater stigma in American popular culture than being labeled a loser. The expression loser (as the picture at the right illustrates) has become an oft-used and enduring symbol in popular culture. To be called a loser is, to paraphrase a well-known sports cliché, worse than death because you have to live with being a loser.

Avoiding Failure

Children learn that they can avoid failure three ways:

Children don’t engage in an activity in which they fear failure. If children don’t participate, they’re safe from failure. Injury, illness, damaged equipment, forgotten or lost materials, apparent lack of interest or motivation, or just plain refusal to take part are common ways in which children can avoid failure and maintain their personal and social esteem.Children can also avoid failure by failing in an activity, but protect themselves from the failure by having an excuse-“I would have done well, but I just didn’t feel like it” or “I would have done just fine, but the teacher was totally unfair.” Because their failures were not their fault, children can’t be held responsible and popular culture and their parents must continue to accept and love them.Many children don’t have the luxury of not taking part or coming up with excuses, for example, children can’t just not go to school. So another way that children can avoid failure is to get as far away from failure as possible by becoming successful. But children who are driven to avoid failure are stuck in limbo between failure and real success, what I call the “safety zone,” in which the threat of failure is removed, for example, they have a B+ average or finish in the top 10 in their sport, but they are unwilling to intensify their efforts to fully achieve success.

The Value of Failure

Failure is an inevitable-and essential-part of life. Failure can bolster the motivation to overcome the obstacles that caused the failure. It shows children what they did wrong so they can correct the problem in the future. Failure connects children’s actions with consequences which helps them gain ownership of their efforts. Failure teaches important life skills, such as commitment, patience, determination, decision making, and problem solving. It helps children respond positively to the frustration and disappointment that they will often experience as they pursue their goals. Failure teaches children humility and appreciation for the opportunities that they’re given.

Of course, too much failure will discourage children. Success is also needed for its ability to bolster motivation, build confidence, reinforce effort, and increase enjoyment. As children pursue their life goals, they must experience a healthy balance of success and failure to gain the most from their efforts.

Defining Failure

To protect children from popular culture’s destructive definitions of failure, give them positive definitions of failure. I define failure in ways that encourage children to value rather than fear it.

Failure is not living in accordance with their values. When children cheat, lie, or don’t take responsibility for themselves, then they fail.When children buy into popular culture’s definition of success, for example, being overly concerned with popularity or appearance, then they fail.Failure involves children not giving their best effort, making poor decisions, and not doing what is in their best interest.When children look for the easy way out, are influenced by peer pressure, and act in ways that can hurt them, then they fail.Failure also means treating others poorly and not giving back to their families, communities, and the world as a whole. When children are selfish, uncaring, and disrespectful of the world in which they live, then they fail.

Giving children a definition of failure that takes away the fear liberates them from that fear. It also frees them to strive for success without reservation, to explore, take risks, and vigorously pursue their dreams. Children will know in their hearts that some failure is okay and in no way a negative reflection on themselves as people. Finally, failure will ultimately enable them to achieve success, however they define it.