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Option To Fail May Aid Children’s Academic Success

New research completed by the American Psychological Association states, students are able to learn better if they are told that failure is an option and is even a normal part of learning. It is important to help kids understand learning is hard and failure is a part of learning. It’s normal and OK.

Kids today are obsessed with success. They associate success with being smart and failure with being not smart. It is because of this students are afraid to learn more and take on new material. Learning more increases the chance for failure.

In an experiment with 111 sixth graders, two groups were all given a difficult problem to solve. One group was given encouragement and told failure is normal and practice helps to overcome failure while the other group was merely asked how they attempted to solve the problem.

Students then took a test that measured their working memory, which is a predictor of academic achievement. Working memory is how we learn and store new information. Those who were told that failure is ok had better results on the working memory test than the other.

Two more experiments were performed with a reading comprehension instead of a working memory test. Those students who were explained the idea that failure is an option and a natural part of the learning process did much better than those just given tests.

Learning that it is alright to fail also increased the students’ views of their own academic performance. Researchers did state that this explanation would produce temporary results but it still has an effect on their academic achievement.

An emphasis on progress instead of just grades and tests would improve academic performance. Learning is a process and failure is part of it – students who know this experience a decrease in stress regarding academics and end up performing better.


What do you do to help your child succeed in school?
About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to TV Shows and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available. Dr. Hanks is currently accepting coaching clients.



I do not agree, I have been made to feel like a failure/no one all my life and it made me withdraw, lose confidence not succeed, I tried to succeed but gave up when knew I could not when you are invisible

Dermot Coonan

Thanks Julie for the thought provoking article!
Working at a University, I see that students become results obsessed.
I believe we need room for trial and error learning.
If children could discover anything from the wheel for themselves,
It would have a positive impact on their curiousity and appetite for learning.
We need to structure more learning to be about finding out for themselves, through trial and error.

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