There has been a lot written lately about the need to help kids build up their resiliency. The more resilient a child is, the more able they are to roll with life’s punches, and bounce back from difficult situations. This week I want to highlight a strategy made popular in improvisational theatre; celebrating failure.
In order to be successful at improv (non-scripted theatre), participants need to be willing to take risks, try new things and accept that not everything they do will work. In fact, early on, most of it probably won’t. If, however, actors resisted taking risks, they would not progress in their skills or their confidence. They would also be really boring to watch. So, in order to encourage risk taking, a tradition of celebrating failure evolved.
When an actor is playing a game and is ‘out’, the actor throws up their arms dramatically and yells in a triumphant voice “I FAILED!”. The rest of the troupe then cheers and claps. As silly as this may sound, it not only takes the sting out of ‘messing up’, it gives the locus of control back to the person who messed up. I believe that autonomy is key here. This is particularly helpful for kids who lean towards perfectionism, as they also tend to be far more risk-averse.
How Can This Translate to Kids?
At home, cultivate a culture of celebrating failure, by modelling vocally and physically embracing an ‘oops’.
If you drop a dish, smile and loudly declare ‘I failed’ or ‘I broke the crud out of that dish’ and encourage other family members to applaud.
If your child takes a positive risk that doesn’t pan out, encourage them to do the same.
Take every opportunity to embrace what may previously be seen as failures, as learning opportunities.
Share times when you have messed up and why it turned out for the best, didn’t matter that much, taught you something, or wished others had responded differently.