Portsmouth High School | Don't protect our children entirely from failure

It is important not to protect our children entirely from failure

The Winter Olympics have captivated me over the last two weeks and, if it were possible, I am looking forward to our school ski trip even more than before. The margins between success and failure are so small and this has made me think about how we prepare our children as educators and parents.

A stark example of high and low emotion is that of Elise Christie, the outstanding British short track speed skater. In the Olympics of 2014 she crashed or was disqualified in all her races, leading to abuse on social media and even death threats. At the time she wanted to give up on racing entirely and was in a very dark place. She gradually worked her way out of her slump and used the disappointment as a catalyst to become even stronger. This culminated in her astonishing victories at the World Championships where she swept all before her.


On to the Olympics this year she was surely destined for greatness and to complete her tale of ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’. But as I am sure you will have seen her races were as disastrous as those of four years ago, leaving her shattered emotionally and injured. But this time the nation has leapt to support her example of fortitude and she has had nothing but praise for her efforts. Will she give up now? I do not think so and we may even see her in another four years.

It is important that our children are not protected entirely from failure. We discuss this a great deal at the junior school and will always espouse it as a way of succeeding in the future. They need to be aware that life will not always work in the way that they want it to and that this need not be something to hold them back. How we react to disappointment is a mark of our strength.