Children, Failure, Careers, and Money

Like virtually every parent in the world, I want to see my children succeed. I love it when they take on something challenging and then overcome it.

This is a big part of the parenting philosophy that Sarah and I hold. We regularly encourage our children to take on challenging things, whether it’s a hard book, a physical activity, or something else entirely.

Like it or not, though, when you regularly encourage your children to take on challenges, they’re going to sometimes fail.

Failure is simply part of the equation and for a child who is still developing coping mechanisms and a sense of self-worth, failure can be a real challenge.

There are a few things we do to help them deal with this.

First, we compliment the process. If they’re working hard at something, we compliment that hard work. If they’ve developed a well-considered plan that only fell apart due to a known risk, we compliment that plan.

Second, we don’t criticize or punish the failure – the failure is often painful enough. It’s easy to jump on a failure, but it’s not helpful. Yes, there are times for parents to criticize children, but when they’re reeling from the failure of something they worked hard to achieve, that’s not the time to jump in with more criticism.

Finally, we help them look for ways to keep moving forward. What went wrong? What can be done now? We work through this process with them if they’re struggling with it.

This general philosophy works for a lot of things in their life, from putting together LEGO kits to executing a lemonade stand. Sometimes, these things are going to fail. The key is knowing how to move on and how to use what you’ve learned to make the next attempt a success.

What does this all have to do with money? We’re teaching our children how to be entrepreneurs and/or free agents in their careers.

This is the process that everyone who is out there trying to build a better career or build a business for themselves goes through. They plan things. They execute things. Sometimes, those plans fail. They pick up the pieces and move on.

To make that all work, you have to trust your ability to create good plans. You also have to understand that the real value is in creating the plan and executing it and that the end result is sometimes out of your control.

As time moves on, it’s becoming more and more clear that successful people have to be free agents and/or entrepreneurs in their careers. By teaching our children how to handle this at a young age, we’re trying to make this kind of mindset – planning, working hard to execute that plan, failing, revising, and eventually succeeding – completely natural to them.

Parenting isn’t about teaching your children that only success matters. It’s about teaching them that planning and working hard on executing that plan matter at least as much.

Parenting isn’t about protecting your children from failure. It’s about teaching them how to deal with failure and how to have processes in life that keep moving forward from that failure.

Someday, I want to see and hear about all of their successes in the world. Today, I need to be giving them the tools to make all of that possible.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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