Helping Children Learn Through Failure

Key Takeaways

  • Failure tends to have a negative connotation, but it’s an important aspect of life.
  • We don’t learn without making mistakes and failing along the way.
  • By rewarding children for their mistakes, we can help them learn when the stakes are still relatively low.

Business owners and entrepreneurs learn something very early on about failure: it’s important to fail quickly, fail fast, and fail forward. It’s crucial in the process of learning and growing.

But this is not what we’re taught in school. It’s quite the opposite – failure is viewed as a bad thing when it comes to schoolwork and grades. However, we find that real-life failure is how we get to a level of mastery with anything in life.

In an article on, “This is the smartest and ‘least costly’ way to help your kids learn faster” addresses this topic. In it, the author discusses how a Spanish teacher he knows hands each of his students a bag filled with 1,000 beads. For each mistake a student makes, he or she removes a bead from the bag, continuing in this manner until the bag is empty. Once the bag is empty, the student has achieved a level of mastery.

This method encourages students to make mistakes – and the more quickly they make mistakes, the more quickly they progress. Humans tend to hesitate if they’re unsure of an answer, but any time there’s something new to be learned, there will certainly be mistakes to be made. With a foreign language, a student will get the grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and sentence structure wrong countless times at the start. But that practice and willingness to make mistakes are the only way to progress.

This would work with other areas outside of foreign language, as well. Learning math concepts, a new musical instrument, or trying out a new sport, are just a few of many areas where failure will happen before mastery occurs.

The author of the article also points out that childhood is where it’s “cheapest” to make mistakes. The stakes are lower if they fail a math test in grade school, as opposed to failing to correctly file their taxes as an adult. Similarly, they might blow their budget as a high schooler earning their first paycheck, and that’s a lot better than not knowing how to handle their money in adulthood.

So as you help your own children or grandchildren as they learn, encourage them to view their mistakes as stepping stones to mastery. Until next time, enjoy.


If you’d like to read more on this topic, here are a few of our past Coyle Blog posts that you might enjoy:

Help Your Grandchildren Make Smart Decisions About Money

Financial Literacy–It Starts at Home



Gary Klaben serves as a Financial Advisor, and visionary for Coyle Financial Counsel. He has over 30 years of experience and is the author of Changing the Conversation, Wealth of Everything and co-author of The Business BattlefieldWhether advising his clients, mentoring his team, or coaching entrepreneurs, he is always simplifying complexity and motivating others to take the next action that’s right for them.

Learn more about The Coyle Process, approach designed to get your arms around the big picture, so you can make informed financial decisions. Ask Gary about The Coyle Process and schedule a complimentary consultation and start living the Good Life Managed Well™.
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All information is from sources deemed reliable, but no warranty is made to its accuracy or completeness.   This material is being provided for informational or educational purposes only, and does not take into account the investment objectives or financial situation of any client or prospective client.  The information is not intended as investment advice, and is not a recommendation to buy, sell, or invest in any particular investment or market segment.  Those seeking information regarding their particular investment needs should contact a financial professional.  Coyle, our employees, or our clients, may or may not be invested in any individual securities or market segments discussed in this material.  The opinions expressed were current as of the date of posting but are subject to change without notice due to market, political, or economic conditions. All investments involve risk, including loss of principal.  Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

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