Ep. 172: How to Talk to Kids About Mistakes and Failure with Dr. Robyn Silverman

Feb 13, 2024 | 0 comments

In this episode, we explore how children and teens who learn and think differently perceive mistakes and failure. Dr. Robyn Silverman, AKA the “Conversation Doc,” renowned child and teen development specialist and best-selling author, guides us through the complexities of navigating tough conversations about failure with young people. Drawing from her book, How to Talk to Kids About Anything, Dr. Robyn underscores the importance of reframing failure as an opportunity for growth and learning.

In a society driven by achievement, children with learning differences often struggle with fears of failure and making mistakes. Dr. Robyn emphasizes the need for parents and educators to foster an environment where children feel safe to take risks and embrace imperfection. From reframing academic setbacks to celebrating incremental progress, she offers practical strategies for instilling a growth mindset in children and teens.

Throughout the episode, Dr. Robyn encourages parents to reflect on their own reactions to failure and perfection. Mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process and that goes for parents, too. By de-emphasizing outcomes and focusing on the journey of growth, parents can empower their children to develop resilience and self-confidence. 


Show Notes:

[2:50] – In her book, Dr. Robyn walks families through having tough conversations with kids and teens.

[4:18] – Kids with learning differences often have worries about messing up. We need to have conversations about failure and mistakes.

[5:30] – The only way we grow and learn is if we take risks and try even if we fail.

[6:51] – We are in an achievement-focused culture and it makes it hard for kids to understand that mistakes are actually opportunities.

[9:27] – When it comes to academics, seeing failure doesn’t feel like an opportunity.

[10:49] – It is crucial for kids to come to an understanding that their performance does not reflect who they are.

[13:47] – A great example of mistakes as opportunities is learning how to play a musical instrument.

[15:45] – Kids of certain ages rely on very concrete thinking. Take photos of accomplishments and even the mistakes for them to see how they have improved.

[17:10] – The only person we can compare yourself to is yourself and this is challenging for kids and teens.

[19:22] – Parents need to reflect on how they react to “perfect” and “imperfect” performance and behavior.

[21:46] – Parents are also going to make a ton of mistakes and that’s okay.

[23:27] – See the value, even if the achievement hasn’t been made.

[24:45] – We don’t want to convey the feeling that negative consequences are the result of failure. This leads to kids not trying.

[27:46] – Show kids stories of amazing and successful people who have experienced failure before their fame.

[29:13] – Deemphasize the outcome and focus on the process.

[31:24] – What is your definition of bringing out the best in your child? It might need to be reframed.


About Our Guest:

Known as the “Conversation Doc,” Dr. Robyn Silverman is a child and teen development specialist and author of the bestselling book, How to Talk to Kids About Anything, as well as the host of the popular podcast of the same name. She is a cofounder of the Powerful Words Character System, which gives educators the talking points they need to help children become kind, responsible citizens of the world. 

Dr. Robyn has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Early Show and Nightline and has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, CNN.com, and many other publications. She lives with her husband, two kids and a fuzzy rescue dog who loves sunning himself on their front steps, even in the summer heat of North Carolina. Find out all about the book at DrRobynSilverman.com.


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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.