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Encouraging but not pressuring a high achiever

 
 
sozobe
 
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 09:12 am
Hiya,

So my kid (10) usually does well at school without having to try that hard.

I think it's important to have a work ethic and to be in situations where you need to try... where failing is fine, the point is to avoid skating.

So I've encouraged her to do things that are stretches, things that aren't just easy for her. She's involved in a lot of sports/ physical activity, and she tends to be OK at that, not great, not terrible.

This year she's having a breakout basketball season. Something really clicked, and her first few games were amazing. Definitely fun for me as a former basketball player, sports fan, and parent to watch. She got "player of the week" last week. (League-wide honor.)

She and one other player on her team are the standouts. Six kids on the team total, four play at a time. The other player is better but the two of them are about the best in the league (I think when they did the draft, the coaches didn't realize how good sozlet would be -- she wasn't nearly this good last year). They made a formidable team, passing, getting each other's rebounds, etc. The other four kids are all much smaller, younger, and kind of hopeless. They're learning, but they're at a completely different level.

Well. The other good player broke her finger in practice, so it was all on my kid yesterday. She didn't do well at ALL with that. With three basically-hopeless teammates, her passes to them were bobbled and lost, their passes to her were short and stolen, and when she sat out, the other team went on scoring runs (she was her team's only real defensive force).

But she went ALL OUT. She was all over the place when she was in, and begged her coaches to keep her in. She dove for loose balls. I was concerned but hesitant about intervening. I tried to catch her eye and tell her to calm down a bit, but she was focused and not looking at me.

Of course, she burnt out. No severe injuries or anything but got overheated and nauseous and I had to take her outside for some fresh air and get her calmed down. Her team was losing badly (of course) and partly she was physically burnt out (she was boiling up, glad it was cold outside) and partly she was so upset that she wasn't able to single-handedly rescue her team.

I talked her out of that but it got me thinking in general about her intensity and what, if anything, I want to do about that as a parent. I don't think it's good for her to be so emotionally invested in this kind of thing -- I want her to accept failures and setbacks more gracefully. (She was crying or on the verge of tears for about ten minutes, until we went outside. She was fine for the last stretch.) I also want her to try though, to not shut down and quit. Not sure what is best for me to do in terms of helping her achieve that balance. (I'm using this basketball game as an example, but she's like this a lot.)

Parents of high achievers or people who were high-achieving kids, any advice? Thanks.
 
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 09:35 am
@sozobe,
One thing I can think of is, maybe, an activity that isn't competitive at all, but that involves skill, such as art.

She could stretch and work on improving her technique (this could be photography, clay or whatever) without it being a big rush or a problem if she failed. Dunno if this is making sense.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 09:36 am
@jespah,
Part of what I'm getting at is that I want her to fail sometimes, I think that's important. But you need to know how to handle failure.

Hmm, maybe that's just an experience thing? She fails, it's unpleasant, but it's not the end of the world, she moves on.
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 09:43 am
@sozobe,
You definitely need to know how to handle that. I recall crying, crying, crying when I got 5th in a horse show (it was a division with 6 girls in it). Really, it was not a big deal -- I was totally overreacting and, in particular, I hadn't planned well. It was my own damned fault.

I was 11 at the time, so it's possible that this is something she's not quite grown into yet.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 09:50 am
@jespah,
How did your parents react to the horse show tragedy? I think it's probably good that you categorize it now as overreacting... did they help you figure that out? If so, how? Or did you just kinda process it yourself?
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 10:29 am
@sozobe,
Well, I agree with the making her stretch part. I skated through all of my schooling until I hit college; cratered there because I didn't know how to study. Really. I'd never had to study before, and I didn't have the skill set.

And part of being on a team is not trying to do it all yourself, but working at a level that your team can interface with.
0 Replies
 
firefly
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 10:47 am
@sozobe,
Quote:
I talked her out of that but it got me thinking in general about her intensity and what, if anything, I want to do about that as a parent. I don't think it's good for her to be so emotionally invested in this kind of thing -- I want her to accept failures and setbacks more gracefully. (She was crying or on the verge of tears for about ten minutes, until we went outside. She was fine for the last stretch.) I also want her to try though, to not shut down and quit. Not sure what is best for me to do in terms of helping her achieve that balance. (I'm using this basketball game as an example, but she's like this a lot.)


It's hard to be involved in a competitive sport without being emotionally invested in it--the same drive that makes you want to win will make you upset if you don't. On the moment, she wasn't able to accept the failure gracefully, but you helped her calm down and she was fine again, so she's showing good resilience, and you're teaching her how to regain her equilibrium. Even professional athletes will sometimes momentarily be in tears after a big loss. Losing ain't no fun--but it's also not the end of the world, and that's the balance you want her to have, and she does seem to realize that. Praising her effort is really all you need to do to get her to keep trying--if she's already a high achiever, you don't need to push her to make more effort, because then she can wind up never feeling satisfied with herself.

I agree with jespah that some non competitive activities might be good. Learning to play a musical instrument, for instance, would rely on her own determination, and her need to practice, for her to be able to see improvement and move on to a more difficult level, but she really wouldn't be competing with anyone else. Learning how to master something, like a musical instrument, teaches a lot about how to deal with frustration and how to develop patience with one's own limitations, because improvement is gradual and incremental, and it's a very different sort of challenge than something like her academic schoolwork or even a team sport.

It does sound like you're already encouraging her without pressuring her. Failure, in some area or another, is pretty inevitable, and it sounds like you're teaching her how to deal with it, and she's also learning through her own experiences. You think all the losers at the Oscars really accept their failures so gracefully? As adults we simply learn to mask our disappoint better. Losing at something, or not achieving your goal, hurts. particular if you've given it your best effort, and only the process of maturing helps us to manage that hurt better by getting it in the proper perspective--after we may have a good cry about it.
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 11:31 am

To ward off tears,
u might point out that it is only a game -- like tic-tac-to
or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 11:56 am
I think about that with my older daughter often especially in sports – now granted her teams have lost (quite a bit), but she in a sense has almost always won. For any team that you need to try out and be good, she has made. She is usually the best or close to it on her team even with older girls. She did lose recently in a free throw competition – where her younger sister won in her age group) and as much as you want to see your child succeed, it is a great life lesson to lose.

This is stuff I experience every weekend. First, I find it wonderful that her team failed. It will teach her to lose. It is ok for her to cry (this time) – its her first failure; she will learn from it. I let my daughter know when she fails (or better worded – doesn’t come in first), that it is ok to be sad about it and want to win, but did you have fun? Did you enjoy when the audience was cheering, when you made the basket, made a good throw.

Also, encourage her to help her teammates. Talk to her about the fact that this is a team sport. You need to work as a team to succeed. I think this is huge. No matter how good one or two players are – you need to be a good team and that means helping your teammates to learn, encouraging them and being positive to them. And burning yourself out by playing too intensively will only hurt her team.

I wouldn’t worry too much about her wanting to quit – especially if she is as intense as she is. My older daughter is on a horrible team right now – and this is in a competitive league. We emphasize improving her skills and working with her team. I always ask her if she is enjoying herself as well.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 11:57 am
@sozobe,
I think you also want her to be passionate if she is expressing it in a positive manner. Trying extra hard, continuing to pass to her teammates even though it costs errors, playing aggessively without getting lots of fouls, these are good things. Playing until you get sick, melting down after the game, those are areas to work on. Please don't ask her to tone down the passion, just express it in positive ways.
OmSigDAVID
 
  0  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 01:43 pm
@engineer,
engineer wrote:
I think you also want her to be passionate if she is expressing it in a positive manner. Trying extra hard, continuing to pass to her teammates even though it costs errors, playing aggessively without getting lots of fouls, these are good things. Playing until you get sick, melting down after the game, those are areas to work on. Please don't ask her to tone down the passion, just express it in positive ways.
If it is only a game,
then what is the point of being "passionate" ??????????

Ostensibly, it matters not
whether u win or lose, unless u bet on the result.





David
engineer
 
  2  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 02:01 pm
@OmSigDAVID,
What's the point about being passionate about music? Can't you just buy in on CD? How about politics? No one cares what you think anyway. It is a sad day when you decide that there is no need to try unless there is money attached.

I do agree that it doesn't matter how you win or lose - it matters how you play the game.
OmSigDAVID
 
  0  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 02:16 pm
@engineer,
engineer wrote:
What's the point about being passionate about music? Can't you just buy in on CD?
How about politics?
No one cares what you think anyway.[How rude.]
It is a sad day when you decide that there is no need to try unless there is money attached.

I do agree that it doesn't matter how you win or lose - it matters how you play the game.
Politics have gigantic results; games don 't.

That 's the difference, rude person.
engineer
 
  2  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 02:21 pm
@OmSigDAVID,
Niether does fine dining, after all it comes out as **** in 24-48 hours anyway. Are you saying those passionate about fine dining should just get some fast calories at McD's? The passion is the enjoyment. Politics may have gigantic results, but our input doesn't. In your world, why bother getting passionate about anything?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 02:21 pm
Your comments have been helpful, everyone, thanks!

DrewDad, right, I remember we talked about that before. I had similar problems.

She actually did well with trying to bring in her team members, they just weren't up to it. Over and over she passed to them only to have them bobble the ball and lose it, or dribble awkwardly and have it stolen, or take a hopeless shot + have the other team come down with the rebound... They did put together a few good plays and she praised 'em and high-fived 'em when they did, it just wasn't enough to avoid a complete blowout. Also her own skills were compromised by her going hellforleather all game, she had one fast break and layup that she'd usually make but missed it.

Firefly, good point about praising her effort. She seems to have the motivation to do well. I admit that I wish she wouldn't be so DRAMATIC about it but that's always been her and I think that maybe handling it better will just kind of happen organically as she matures.

She does ballet, which is non-competitive but challenging. I agree that music is a good idea, we've talked about it but haven't settled on an instrument and then she starts getting music instruction free through school next year, so at this point we're just kind of waiting for that.

Linkat, I agree about bringing it back to the fun stuff. She tends to brush me off in the moment but later she might bring it up, so I know she's listening. I did use that line about how if she burns out that doesn't actually help the team -- that she needs to pace herself, do what she can but not put herself out of commission by trying TOO hard.

Engineer, I like how you put that, I think I'll use it. (Passion = good, just put it to positive use.)
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 02:32 pm
@engineer,
But when you win - you get trophies and pictures in the paper and crap like that.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 02:37 pm
@sozobe,
Quote:
She actually did well with trying to bring in her team members, they just weren't up to it. Over and over she passed to them only to have them bobble the ball and lose it, or dribble awkwardly and have it stolen, or take a hopeless shot + have the other team come down with the rebound... They did put together a few good plays and she praised 'em and high-fived 'em when they did, it just wasn't enough to avoid a complete blowout. Also her own skills were compromised by her going hellforleather all game, she had one fast break and layup that she'd usually make but missed it.


OK you just described my girl and her team almost to a "T". The good news is the team is improving. We had only one win prior to this weekend. This weekend we won both games. Maybe you can talk to her about patience (tough when you are so passionate), that give her team time and they will improve.

Some of this will just come with experience and maturity - not sure if she can overcome her dramatics around winning/losing until she has experienced more of it.

How is she about winning?
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 02:39 pm
Soz, I think your calmness and acceptance about it is showing her how to deal with failure, and your support and encouragement are helping her keep a decent perspective. If she's passionate about it - fabulous. You wouldn't want a kid who just stood on the court or was too out of it to figure out the plays and was a detriment to the team, etc. You want her involved, participating and enthused, but not obsessive, right? And in all things she does, especially by choice, right?

Someone has to win and someone has to lose. When you play cards or board games, you don't let her win, do you? She must lose some of the time, so she's not unfamiliar with the concept.

My son played ice hockey his whole life and he had the other problem. He was too good (at the time) for his league - he was in Triple A Rep and he just had this natural talent. The parents always yelled at their kids to give him the puck and it used to make me bonkers. He's part of a TEAM, not THE team, and it gave him an over-inflated sense of himself. So what if he was better? He's still part of a team. Not that he ever hogged the puck - to the contrary, in fact. He lost interest got lazy and lackadaisical. I used to tell him that if he wasn't prepared to play, then get off the team because there was a line up of kids who did want to play. He really only tried and played well when they were playing better teams and when he got on better teams. That was a tough one to deal with.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 02:51 pm
@Linkat,
She's fine with winning, much less dramatic. Her first basket ever this year (she made ZERO baskets in games last year, good at defense but not offense) she did a fist-pumping happy dance, the second one she smiled big, then after that she settled into a "wow I can actually do this!" mode and has been pretty calm when her team wins or when she does well. Her team won the first three games handily, she was gracious and non-dramatic. (Two games ago she had a decent but not great game and then with about 2 minutes left there was a scrum and she got BASHED in the nose, hard -- not purposeful. She came down with the ball anyway and took off on a fast break even though she was sobbing about halfway down the court. She launched the ball, it didn't go in, she got the rebound and made a sweet pass -- continuing to sob -- until the ref stepped in and was like um, is someone going to do something about this kid? Her nose bled but it didn't swell that much and I don't think it's broken. Anyway they lost that one, close game, and she was sobbing for about fifteen minutes afterwards but hard to tell how much of that was emotion and how much was nose pain.)

Second-best was about perfect for her -- she liked doing well but seemed to appreciate having this other player step in when needed (whether making a play when both were on the court or coming in if she got tired). She seems to prefer to not feel the responsibility. When it doesn't all come down to her and she's surprising people with how well she's doing, she's more relaxed and plays better.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Feb, 2011 02:54 pm
@Mame,
Mame, interesting, I get how that would be hard to deal with. What did he end up doing with hockey?
 

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