Helping Teens When They Fail

I just drove two teens to their third ACT test.  They are on a quest to eek out a few more points in hopes of getting into the best schools.  I remember taking the test just once, and not worrying much about it.  Today’s teens seem to fear failure more than previous generations.  And who can blame them?  Failure, in the teen world, can be associated with being a “loser” or being “stupid.”  John Eliastam writes in that two trends make it especially hard for teens to deal with failure (which, after all, is inevitable).  First, “Teenagers are especially prone to the instant gratification mentality and this can tempt them to give up if success doesn’t come quickly and easily. ” Second, parents can add unbearably high expectations.  Says Eliastam, “From preschool, children are pushed to achieve, with competitive parents standing on the sidelines keeping score. This makes failure an almost impossible burden for a child to bear.”  His article gives many suggestions under 5 categories for how a parent can be a “life coach” who helps his or her teen learn how to handle failure, learn from it, and persevere:

  • Getting Perspective
  • Developing Persistence
  • Learning Patience
  • Redefining Success
  • Avoiding the Comparison Trap