Tag Archive for: Jayme Waddell

By Jayme Waddell, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.

There is not a person around who is going say being a parent is easy. It is often a balancing act. We want kids to be self-sufficient, while also providing all the help we can. We want confident children, but they should also be humble.

Sometimes we focus so much on the strong and confident attributes we are trying to instill in our children that we forget some of the other very important traits they will need as they grow: empathy and conflict resolution skills. It might feel strange to put these two things together, but being able to feel empathy towards others will directly affect how they resolve conflict.  

As we build kids into strong, confident future leaders, we need to remember that leaders are also good listeners. Good leaders are also kind, can take criticism from others with grace, and can communicate their feelings in a healthy way. So how do we teach our kids skills like empathy and conflict resolution? 

Step 1: Modeling – The best thing we can do is model these behaviors for our children. When you’re out to eat at a busy restaurant and you feel the service is less than stellar, you can model empathy by making positive comments about how hard the people around you are working or how they might be short staffed.

There are also many opportunities to model patience for your child. When your child is arguing with a sibling, try to help them navigate their feelings. Ask them listen to each other, validate how each of them is feeling during their time to speak, and encourage positive solutions. Our children are great at generating creative ways to solve their own problems when given the opportunity.

Step 2: Look for teachable moments – These could be real life situations, or you could take time to talk through how they would handle situations in a book you’re reading together. Encourage them to think about how the characters might be feeling and why (creating the opportunity for them to be empathetic). Ask about what they might do if they were in that situation and what the results of those decisions might be. 

Step 3: Use “I” Messages – Communicate your own feelings with your child to help them learn how to communicate their feelings in the same way. I-messages sound like “I feel sad when you don’t let me play with you, will you please include me next time?” Helping your child learn how to use this type of phrasing at home and with their peers teaches them how to communicate in a non-combative way and encourages others to hear them without becoming defensive.  

Teaching our children these skills help empower them to have difficult conversations while building healthy and strong relationships. It is possible to have strong kids who are also kind and empathetic. These are the types of skills that help grow future leaders.  

By Jayme Waddell, LSW – April 12, 2022

As a parent, my goal is always to help my children succeed. However, I have realized that kids actually need help learning how to fail. When we fail, we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and eventually succeed. This isn’t necessarily a new idea but one that I now understand better as a parent.

Failure is inevitable. If kids don’t learn how to tolerate failure, it can leave them vulnerable to anxiety and stress, which often results in meltdowns, regardless of age. It may also lead kids to give up altogether. Acquiring the skills necessary to cope with failure is a crucial part of success.

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”  – Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, one of the greatest athletes in the world, has spent decades speaking about failure. He has discussed the importance of perseverance and resilience, both on and off the court. His legendary accomplishments and hard work have turned him into one of the most impactful basketball players of all time. Was he born a champion? No. Did he have a raw talent for the game? No. He was relentless and never gave up. He accepted failure as part of his success.

As the pressure to win increases, we see more kids getting distraught over the smallest error. Therefore, it is increasingly more important for kids to learn how to tolerate imperfection. I would argue that learning how to cope with these mistakes may be even more important than whatever lesson or skill they were working on at the time the mistake was made. Learning how to fail is a necessary part of accomplishing any goal. It is an important life skill for kids to master to become more independent and thrive in the future.

Teaching kids how to fail is a process that starts with empathy. Saying, “it’s okay,” “nice try,” or “you’ll do better next time” can invalidate the child’s feelings, which could lead to more frustration and disappointment. Try changing the approach to be more empathetic: “I can see that you are upset. I know you wanted to do better.”

Modeling how to handle your own disappointment can also be impactful. Sharing your failures and explaining that failure is part of life can help normalize setbacks. Children are not always exposed to the reality that we, as adults, make mistakes and experience failures. It’s important to teach our children that it is okay when things don’t always go according to plan.

Make failure a teachable moment. When a child fails, there is a great opportunity for parents to teach critical thinking skills like problem-solving, self-regulation, and open mindedness. Try helping your child figure out what could be done next time for potential success. This is all about balance – we want to build distress tolerance skills by accepting that the situation “is what it is” while also recognizing what we learned or what we can do differently next time.

Watching your child fail can be difficult, but learning how to handle mistakes can only be done through exposure. When we hover or try to protect our children from every misstep, we rob them of the very experiences that require problem-solving. We take away the opportunity for them to experience resiliency and build the confidence necessary to take on new challenges.

Learning how to fail can be a painful experience, but success can only be achieved after we have learned the skills necessary to cope with any obstacles life throws in our path.