Teaching the Art of Failure through Picture Books

When failure descends on us, like a sudden sickness, it feels bad. In the midst of a failure we think we won’t survive. Our memories of failure are so strong that we treat life like a game of dodge ball. We jump around in order to avoid the feared ball of failure coming our way.  Failure is part of the process of leading ourselves

Dreams are imagined, actions are taken, and failure happens. The next step we take when things don’t work out like we planned is the most important step in the leadership process.

What would happen if we as parents teach our kids that failure is part of the process?  Perhaps, a playful, curious approach before our little one experiences the pain of a situation can yield benefits when they are learning something that is difficult. We want them to keep trying because research is telling us that struggle is important to learning. 

Picture books are a great resource for pointing out actions or attempts that don't work. In Ella and Penguin Stick Together, a book just published this month, Ella wants to see her stickers glow in the dark. She is afraid of the dark. Her fears are keeping her from seeing the stickers glow. Resourceful Ella tries other options and fails in her first few attempts. 

Read the book and ask a few questions to help your preschooler see that not everything works out the first time. 

  • What was Ella trying to do?
  • What actions did she take?
  • What did she finally do?
  • What kept her from seeing the stickers glow. 
  • How did the story turn out?
  • Who helped Ella?

The last question is more important for you, the adult. Ella solves her problem without the help of an adult. It is a pattern that is evident in most well-written children’s literature

Do you allow your children to fail in order to learn?