I’ve done plenty of both in my life.
And while failure and quitting are oftentimes linked (like when I FAILED a class in college because I QUIT doing the work), there are some key differences between these two ideas that can affect how your kid views that six-stringed monstrosity in her lap. And if you can help her see failure differently, it might keep her come back and try again…and again…and again.
FAILURE IS A DETOUR
There will be something that your kid will want to learn while she is learning to play the guitar that she won’t be able to get. It will be hard, her fingers won’t reach or do what they’re told, and she will be frustrated. Count on it; expect it. When she comes to you to tell you about, first of all, simply listen to her. Then, help her talk through some of her options. Maybe she needs to: take a break for awhile, try a different song/lesson, or even (gasp) ask you for help. Help her see that failing at something isn’t a reason to take the exit ramp, but a chance to take a detour; that she’ll get there eventually. Encourage her through the “scenic routes” of learning to play and you both can celebrate when she reaches her “destination.”
FAILURE IS FREEDOM
When your kid knows that she’s free to fail, the stress of learning to play will diminish dramatically and she’ll be more apt to try things that are challenging. The problem is, she probably doesn’t know that she’s free to fail. Tell her. Tell her that she’s free to try to learn hard songs, to start a band and practice in the basement, to try and get backstage at a concert. Let her know that WHEN she fails, you’ll be there to help her come up with another crazy idea and not to tell her, “I told you so.” Free her to fail, then stand back and watch when she succeeds.
FAILURE IS A BETTER STORY
All the best stories have failure in them. Tell your kid about failures from your own life and how they shaped who you’ve become. Show her that her own story will be so much more interesting with some adversity, something to overcome, some failure. A fun activity you could do with her is to have her write out a Future Memory; written by her…in the future, looking back on where she is now and how she overcame it. Help her see how failure adds to her story instead of takes away from it. It’s not boring, it’s interesting. It’s not worse, it’s better.
There is one catch: she’s going to need your help with this. She won’t naturally see failure as freedom or how it’s helping her write a better story. In the moment, she will see failure as an excuse to quit. Let her see that you’re there next to her and encouraging her in the process. Let her hear you talk about how failure helped you become who you are today. But most of all, let her know that she’s free to fail, but NOT to quit.