Is your child giving you a cause for concern? Have you noticed a change in them recently? Perhaps they are not talking about their achievements as much or shining as brightly as before.
It could be that they have developed a fear of failure - quite common in high achievers. They often have very high expectations of themselves and when things don't go to plan can punish themselves for getting things wrong.
Do you think this is happening to your child...?
1. They no longer speak up in class
2. They refuse to try out for sport squads
3. They compare themselves to others
4. They’d rather not say anything than risk being wrong
5. They have developed a need for perfection
6. They've stopped taking chances for fear of looking silly
7. They panic when things don’t go to plan
8. They are oversensitive to criticism
If you have noticed any of these behaviors creeping into your child’s life there are lots of things you can do to reassure them that ‘failure’ is a crucial part of developing and evolving as a person on or off the sports field.
As a previous teacher and peak performance expert, I see this behavior a lot during Term 1, especially when children are moving from primary to secondary school.
When a child has been a ‘big fish in a little pond’ gaining the highest grades, achieving sports star status on the playing field and generally being the best at everything, it can be a hard knock when they reach secondary and are no longer ranked ‘the best’.
This can crush a child’s ego and send them into a state of overwhelming inadequacy, as to them, their effortless glory years maybe in the past.
So, what can you do?
1. Reassure them about your own failings. Talk of ‘feedback’ rather than ‘failure’ and maintain a sense of humor when retelling stories. Show your child that it’s okay to laugh at yourself.
2. Treat your child exactly the same whether they have won or lost in their sports. Focus on their opinions of the game: what went well? What do THEY think should change next time, then leave it at that – there is no need to over coach after a game. Move on to another topic.
3. Always compliment the effort rather than the outcome in schoolwork and extra-curricular activities. ‘Ooh, that’s lovely’ could become ‘Wow, tell me about this’ or ‘It looks like you’ve worked so hard on your dive technique.’
4. Change ‘I’m so proud of you’ into ‘You must be so proud of yourself.’ This is crucial in reinforcing to your child that it is their expectations that need to be met and not yours to gain acceptance, admiration or love.
5. Remind them often that your love is unconditional – it doesn’t matter what everyone else in the class, family or squad is doing. It matters what your child is doing. Did you know that by looking at others during competitions, you are giving away valuable energy? Concentrate on yourself and your own efforts.
6. Watch your language in front of your child. Are you vocalizing how impressed you are with another student/player? Are you saying things like, ‘Wow, hopefully, you’ll be like that soon,’ ‘I bet their parents are proud,’ ‘They always get top marks, don’t they… don't you want to be like that?’ Keep your remarks positive yet neutral and praise other attributes such as courage, determination and resilience instead of ability.
7. Discuss with your child that we are all learning day by day in the life. Why not take up a new hobby together and show your child that you can be a learner too. Let them teach you some things – if they play an instrument, ask if they’ll teach you a few notes and build their confidence by letting them be the instructor and you the student. It will bolster your child to see you relaxed in this vulnerable state.
8. Be honest and explore all eventualities with your child. If you are taking on new work, giving a presentation or doing something out of your comfort zone, use it as a family discussion point. Describe your fears and how you overcome them – ask your child for advice, empower them to be problem solvers and empathetic listeners. You may be amazed at what they know.
9. Create a family motto or insignia – talk about your family’s strengths. I’m sure being perfect isn’t one of them!
10. Laugh with people and not at people. Instill a sense of kindness by being an honorable mentor for your child. Remember, actions speak louder than words.