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How to Help Your Teen Conquer the Fear of Failure

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

A teen who fears failure isn’t likely to reach his greatest potential. His fear of failing to make the team may cause him to avoid trying out for baseball. Or, the fear of getting a college rejection letter may delay him in completing his college application, which could cause him to miss the application deadline.

While some teens are able to use failure to become better, others become immobilized by their intense fears. The good news is, you can teach your teen how to conquer his fear of failure so he can bounce back better than before. Here are five ways to help your teen get over the fear of failure:

Teach Healthy Self-Talk

Sometimes teens draw incorrect conclusions about themselves based on failure. A teen who fails a math test may tell himself, “I’m stupid.” Or a teen who strikes out in baseball may think, “I can’t ever do anything right.”

Negative self-talk may decrease your teen’s willingness to put in effort when faced with future challenges.

Teach your teen about healthy self-talk. Encourage him to avoid self-downing statements and teach him to replace negative thoughts with a more realistic monologue. A more compassionate conversation with himself can help him bounce back from failure more effectively.

Praise Your Teen’s Effort Rather than Achievement

Praising your teen for achievement can backfire. Saying things like, “I’m so proud of you for getting an A on that test,” or “I think you’re the best trumpet player in the whole band,” could send the message that your love is conditional upon high achievement.

Praise your teen for trying hard, regardless of the outcome. Say something like, “I am so pleased you spent three hours studying for that science test. Looks like it really paid off.” When your teen’s efforts aren’t successful, offer encouraging words such as, “You sure hustled out there on the field today.” Praising your teen’s efforts emphasizes the importance of trying his best.

Talk About Failure

Talk to your teen about failure. Discuss the feelings that accompany failure – shame, embarrassment, guilt, sadness, or even anger. Teach your teen how to cope with the discomfort associated with failure.

Discuss successful people who overcame failure. Make it clear that failure can serve as a wonderful learning opportunity. Talk about how the fear of failure can lead some people to avoid trying things where they might not excel and discuss the potential consequences of that mindset.

Role Model How to Deal With Failure

Look for opportunities to show your teen how to bounce back from failure. When you fail to get hired for a job, or you aren’t able to negotiate a business deal, be a good role model. Avoid making excuses or pretending as if you don’t care.

Instead, talk about your disappointment. Then, make it clear how you’re going to turn this failure into a learning opportunity so you can do better in the future.

Get Involved With Your Teen’s School

Get involved in your teen’s education to help create a positive learning environment. Attending parent/teacher conferences, visiting during an open house, and volunteering for the PTA are just a few ways to show your child and the teachers that you’re invested in education.

Help your child form positive relationships with teachers. Studies show that students try their best when they have a positive relationship with their teachers. Avoid talking negatively about your child’s teachers.

Encourage your teen to engage in active problem-solving when issues with a teacher arise. Sometimes teens mistakenly assume, “That teacher doesn’t like me,” or they draw conclusions like, “It doesn’t matter how hard I try in that class because that teacher will always give me a failing grade.” A teen who can ask the teacher for extra help when necessary or who can talk to the teacher about a grade can set himself up for success.

When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, the fear of failure can stem from an underlying mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression. At other times, a fear of failure can lead to problems.

For example, a teen who stops engaging in activities due to the fear of failure may grow depressed. If your teen’s fear is impacting his education and activities, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional.

Courtesy of Very Well Family


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