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Teaching Kids to Learn from Failure

Amy Mikler

Less Than Letter-Perfect

Madeline O'Malley, 4, of Rockaway, NJ, knows all about failure, from A to Z. Actually, one letter is getting her down. “They're practicing writing in preschool, but Maddie can't make an ‘X,’” says her mom, Cate. “Her lines are wiggly or won't cross properly. Maddie gets really worked up.”

From hot mess to success: O'Malley reminds Maddie how far she's come. “I tell her ‘Just think, last year you couldn't write your whole name, and now you can. Give it a little more time and I am sure you will be able to make an X, too!” O'Malley has also drawn an X and put a piece of tracing paper on top of it to give Maddie a template.

“Show your child that he's not the only one who doesn't get things right on the first try.”

Extra tips from the experts: Maddie's mom is doing a super job of boosting her confidence, Leff says. What would also help, she adds, “is to simply tell her ‘You know what? That might be too hard or you right now, honey,’” she says. If Maddie still wants to practice, she and her mom could make a single X together with a thick marker. Then Maddie could put glue on it and sprinkle it with glitter. Another option—make a connect-the-dots X for Maddie to finish.

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