How To Help Your Child Avoid Crippling Lifelong Struggles

There’s a belief that you can avoid with your kids that begins in early childhood and is at the root of many lifelong struggles and fears:

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… Procrastination

… Risk Avoidance

… Poor self-esteem

… Crippling self-doubt

… Staying too long in bad relationships

… Dead-end jobs

This belief is often created by well-intentioned parents who don’t realize how their reactions are creating a destructive belief that can last a lifetime:

It’s the cause of being stuck, stalling, and anxiety.

It creates crippling fear and self-doubt about the abilities to succeed or improve life circumstances.

It makes people think that they can’t do anything right, and therefore, they shouldn’t even try.

What’s this belief?

That mistakes and failures are bad.

“But How Will My Child Learn from Their Mistakes or Get Motivated to Do Better Next Time?”

According to Shelly Lefkoe, renowned parenting expert and a co-founder of the Lefkoe Institute (which has helped more than 10,000 people worldwide let go of negative beliefs), these negative self-belief start in childhood, when a parent scolds a child for making a mistake.

It’s understandable you want that mistake or failure to be a teachable moment for your child. After all, isn’t that a big part of parenting? To guide your children to make better choices and to learn from their mistakes?

Yes, of course it is. But that’s exactly why scolding, criticizing, lecturing, shaming or yelling at your child when they mess up DOESN’T work to get you those results. It only serves to instill negative beliefs and a fear of failure in your child.

A better approach is to allow your child to fail and then teach them that failures and mistakes are learning opportunities.

How Does the Belief That “Mistakes and Failures Are Bad” Get Formed In the First Place?

To illustrate how this occurs, imagine for a moment that YOU are a child.

You’re working with watercolors on an art project at the kitchen table. You accidentally drop the tray of paints and it lands on the floor. Paint splatters everywhere.

Your mom sees this, gets angry and says, “What’s wrong with you? Can’t you be more careful?”

How would you feel hearing this?

And what would you conclude as a result?

“I’m betting that at that moment, you felt really bad about yourself. You would have felt shame,” says Shelly, “And you would have concluded there must be something terribly wrong with you.”

You might also conclude that:

  1. Mistakes are a very bad thing
  2. You should avoid making mistakes at all costs
  3. If you make a mistake, you’re a bad person

Now, if you’re a parent and you scold your child every time they spill something, break something, or forget something, what might your child conclude?

If you get angry when they come home with a “D” on a test, or criticize them for not scoring the winning point, or for forgetting their lines at the school play, what might they conclude?

How will they feel about themselves?

And if they heard the same things from you over and over, how might that affect them the rest of their life?

Fear of Failure Is the Enemy of Innovation and Creativity

When your child grows up fearing making mistakes and being afraid to fail, they’ll also be afraid to even TRY.

They may not sign up for the school play, for fear of not remembering their lines and being embarrassed in front of an audience.

They may not try out for the cross-country team in high school, even though they run as a hobby.

And when they’re an adult, they may avoid putting in a resumé for a high-paying job that requires creativity and innovative thought, even though they have the skills and the talent.


Because you can’t be innovative or creative if you’re afraid to fail.

Mistakes Are Learning Opportunities, Not Shameful Errors

Shelly says this is why it’s critical to know how to respond when your child makes a mistake or fails. “If your children believe that making mistakes and failing are bad, they’ll forever feel stifled—creatively and purposefully.”

How Parents Can Help Children Succeed

Going back to the original example about the watercolors, imagine that instead your mom comes over to you, puts her hand on your shoulder, and says…

“You knocked over the watercolor tray, that’s okay. It was an accident. How about we clean it up and maybe we can figure out how to make it so that the tray is more secure on the table?”

Can you see how this has now shifted from a tone of blame and shame to one to a learning opportunity?

Can you see how, as a child, you’d conclude that what happened could happen to anyone, that it was a normal mistake and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy making art?

Instead of feeling shame or that you’re a bad person for making a mess, you would learn that mistakes are opportunities to learn to do things better next time. That they’re nothing to fear. And that you’re not a bad person because you made a mistake.

Imagine how adopting this type of response to your child’s mistakes, accidents and failures could positively affect how they feel about themselves now and in the future.

It could literally be life-altering!

The Way to Handle Other, Everyday Situations With Your Child And Positively Affect the Rest of Their Life

You can react in a manner that implies that mistakes are bad and that failure is to be avoided. As a result, your child may grow up having a crippling fear of making mistakes and failing.

Or you can react in a manner that instills more empowering, positive self-beliefs and results in your child growing up to be more creative and innovative, and unafraid of failure.

The above is just one small example of how your parenting strategies can possibly alter the trajectory of the rest of your child’s life.

young girl eatting an icee

This is the dilemma—we do things we think are helpful and instructive, but in reality we are sending the wrong message to our kids. We just don’t realize the damage we’re doing, but if we did, we would do things differently.

That’s why we decided to turn to some of the world’s top experts and get their insights and advice on how to avoid the most common mistakes with parenting, and what to do instead.

When you subscribe to our free expert advice newsletter, you’ll get information-rich articles delivered to your inbox, with tons of actionable tips and specific advice to help you make positive changes in your parenting approach. These are articles by psychotherapists, authors, speakers and experts with decades of real-world experience working with families.

You’ll get articles about how to avoid some of the most common mistakes parents make and what you can do today to make sure you’re raising kids who will become happy, successful adults.

You’ll learn how to instill a sense of self-worth and confidence in your child with the things you say and do, and how to avoid instilling debilitating, negative beliefs.

You’ll get more insights from parenting expert, Shelly Lefkoe, on how to talk to your child in everyday situations so that they feel loved, important, worthy, and unafraid of stepping up and being creative.

You’ll learn what to do if you realize you’ve already made mistakes in the way you’ve responded to your child (because, after all, mistakes are not bad, they’re learning opportunities!) It’s never too late to undo the damage, if you know what to say now.

You’ll also hear from other parenting experts on how to raise happy, successful adults:

  • Dr. Pat Love reveals why creating healthy family systems and boundaries is important if you don’t want your child to grow up to be socially-challenged and entitled.
  • Dr. Jane Nelsen and Mary Tamborski will teach you the secret to getting your kids to cooperate and take self-responsibility without resorting to punishments or punitive time-outs.
  • Gervase Kolmos will reveal why moms are prone to perfectionism and why that actually runs counter to the results you hope to achieve with your family.

You’ll also learn:

  • 3 ways that being overly helpful or “rescuing” damages your children’s confidence and sense of self, and how to help your children develop their own problem-solving skills instead.
  • How to help kids develop a strong sense of belonging and an ability to handle disappointments and remedy their mistakes later in life.
  • Why it’s so hard to set limits and rules around “screen time” and real-life examples of how to use positive parenting in addressing this ubiquitous problem
  • How you may accidentally be “invalidating” your child’s feelings when you’re trying to make them feel better when they’re crying, angry, disappointed, etc.

And much more…

We want our kids to grow up to be as happy, successful and confident as possible, but parenting isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve turned to some of the world’s best experts to help make your job as a parent easier and more rewarding.

Your Friends at Flourish

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