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Now What? - Moving on After Academic Disappointment

I remember the first C that I got in college. I was pretty devastated. Actually, I was pretty upset any time I didn't get an A. I was that kid in college...the perfectionist.

When in school, when I got a grade that I was disappointed in, sometimes I found it hard to move on. I felt like I had failed my purpose...

After drowning myself in ice cream and pity I had to work really hard to pick myself back up. Eventually, I had to teach myself how to move on after disappointment.

It's hard when we get negative feedback isn't it? As adults, we face negative feedback at work. What we fail to think about at times is how our child feels when they get negative feedback at school. Us adults have practice dealing, our kiddos don't.

The truth is, we fail a lot more than we succeed in life if we are looking at the cold hard numbers.

Academic disappointment

I remember as an adolescent the first time an adult was really truthful about this with me. It was in the thick of the school year during 8th grade, and my English teacher got up in front of the class and said"You are going to fail more times than you succeed in life." . "You will fail more often, but the failures will make the success happen. You will learn from your mistakes and keep going until you succeed." Whoa! Harsh! But he went on to lovingly show us what that sentence actually meant. He told us that it is true, we will fail a lot...every day...but we already knew that. We were experiencing lots of failures, but as teens we tended to gloss over our mistakes thinking we were the only ones. After we understood what he meant, my teacher went on to say "You will fail so many times, but hopefully you will learn from those failures. Those failures will be what your successes stand on." He convinced us, with that short conversation, that failure was nothing to be ashamed of, and in fact the more failure you experienced the more triumphs you might have. To this day, I hold this conversation dear to my heart- it taught me that the failure I experienced was normal and helped me move past the daily mishaps on to bigger goals. Mr. Baggit, if you are reading this- thank you! I know I have said it before and I can't promise I won't say it again.

Chances are that your child will experience some disappointments this year- especially at school. The good news is that you can help them pick up the pieces and come back at their work until they experience triumph. Here are just a few ways that you can help your child get back on the horse:

Ask questions

When your child fails at something or does not get the result they want, instead of picking them up and making it better (it's so tempting!) try to ask questions. Asking certain kinds of questions can help your child reflect on the situation at hand and what their role was in it. The goal here is to help your child take as much responsibility as possible for things that were in their control. Here are some examples of questions you can ask:

How do you think you did on the test?

What do you think you could have done to get a different result?

How hard do you feel you worked/studied?

What do you think you did well? What do you think you could have done better on?

Share stories

Sometimes sharing stories of your own failures and disappointments can help your child realize that they are not the only one, and if you can sneak a lesson learned in there it is even better! I like to tell a story about how I failed a Geometry test, and didn't think that I was good a Geometry because of this. The truth was, I was falling asleep sometimes during class because it was right after lunch. My lesson learned was that in order to focus, I had to change a few things that I was doing (and eating) in order to stay awake.

Make a plan

The important thing when experiencing failure is to make sure that you learn from it. Whenever my students share a disappointment with me, I always ask them what their plan is. I usually sounds something like "wow, that sounds like it was disappointing....what is your plan now?". You can guide your child to think through what led to this moment and how they might alter what they do in the future to experience a better outcome.

Alter praise

Our praise shapes children more than we know. When a child is only praised for favorable outcomes, they will get an unhealthy craving for "wins" or will be afraid to try hard or uncomfortable things for fear of the failure. Make sure to praise your child for effort and creativity instead of "smarts". Praising your child for the effort they put in will help them gain a growth mentality and resilience to stand back up when they fall down. Remember to only praise effort when you actually see it happening! Some examples of praise you might give are:

Wow, I can see that you studied hard for your test!

You really put some thought in to this essay.

It was very creative the way that you set up your Science project.

I'm proud of you for keeping at it even though this new subject is hard.

I see that you have been putting in extra effort on your Math homework lately, good job!

What are some other ways that you like to help your child after disappointment?

Happy Learning!


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