The One Thing You Tell Your Toddler That Can Affect Her The Rest Of Her Life

By
Share

There are so many things I want to teach my daughter, from the moment I held her in my arms to today, now that she's a toddler, and beyond. However, as she continues to grow and learn and evolve, I've realized there's one thing you can tell your toddler that can affect her the rest of her life. It's a tall order, I know, and the responsibility of motherhood is not lost on me. In fact, I carry it with me wherever I go. Still, I've realized that if I can teach my daughter, even as a toddler, that failure is not only OK, but good and helpful, I know I will be giving her a valuable tool that will only aid her as she starts to go out into the world on her own.

I truly believe knowing that failure is a normal part of her humanity will directly impact her self-esteem on a whole range of issues throughout her childhood, and can even direct the path she takes with friends and relationships decades from now. So I want to encourage my daughter to remember that literally everyone fails, and whether you try again right now, take a break and try again tomorrow, or decide to take an entirely different route, failure doesn't mean the end of something. Usually it just means there's a pause to enjoy or, perhaps, a new beginning to explore.

I've realized that if I can teach my daughter, even as a toddler, that failure is not only OK, but good and helpful, I know I will be giving her a valuable tool as she starts to go out into the world on her own.

As a recovering perfectionist, I'm not sure I'm even fully aware of all the times the fear of failure kept me from doing something that would have affected or changed my life. I think about it most in regard to my school years, including college, when I was fearful of being rejected by people I didn't know. Teachers and professors were no problem, schoolwork was easy, but by the time I got to college I was terrified of being rejected. So, instead of putting myself out there, I pretended I didn't care at all. I can tell you, that was not the fastest way to make friends.

Of course, explaining the effects of failure to an 18 month old is a little too complex. So instead of diving into the intricacies of failure, perceived failure, or how the fear of failure can keep us from being our true selves, I've decided to start small. First, I've started by encouraging my daughter to try again and after she's failed at something. Whether that means trying get the ring onto the stacking toy again, or continuing to encourage her to use a fork or a spoon when she continually fails to get anything to stick, I'm constantly advocating for a second round of solid effort.

I want her to know that failure is absolutely something we all face frequently. As a result, we all need to deal with gracefully and in a way that doesn't create fear of entering new situations in the future.

When my daughter can't manage to master the playground structure at the park, I hold my breath and watch her try again (and again, and again) to climb that stupid chain link ladder I wish playground designers would eliminate altogether. Sure, I could encourage her to always opt for the slide, which is an easy win, but I know this lesson (however difficult to facilitate) will stay with her forever.

I also make a conscious effort to allow my daughter to watch me and my partner fail, then allow her to watch us try again. I want her to see that her parents are not perfect and we do, despite our best efforts, always meet the mark on the first try. As parents, it's easy to want to portray strength and success in order to ensure our kids feel safe and secure. However, allowing my daughter to see that, sometimes, I don't manage to get everything done that I need to, or that I forget something in her daycare bag, or that I can't meet a deadline, humanizing me as a mother, a woman, and someone who constantly supports her. It will give her this silent permission to avoid trying to be perfectly constantly, too, because she'll know her mother definitely isn't.

I want my daughter to experience so many amazing things in her life, but the last thing I want for her is to feel constant fear because she's failed in her past.

I want her to know that failure is absolutely something we all face frequently. As a result, we all need to deal with gracefully and in a way that doesn't create fear of entering new situations in the future.

I also want my daughter to know what it looks like to encourage others to try again once they've failed. My husband and I speak openly to each other about failure, and subsequently encourage each other to try again or try another way. We both continue to try new things and make ourselves available to people who are going through similar (or even different) struggles, constantly showing them kindness and working on making new friends as we grow older, even when it's scary and failure feels inevitable. My daughter will never stop growing and, well, neither will her parents.

I want my daughter to experience so many amazing things in her life, but the last thing I want for her is to feel constant fear because she's failed in her past. It's certainly a hard thing to keep your children from harboring, but I know encouraging her now, and modeling how we survive after failure, will help her for decades to come.