It is heartbreaking for you to see your child perform badly in a test at school or not getting picked up in a sports team. You might have worked really hard with your child for a particular activity, and seeing your child not producing the desired results, not succeeding that is, can be difficult for you and your child.
It is important to understand therefore that your child will not perform exceptionally well all the time, irrespective of their capabilities. There will be ups and downs, and they might be difficult to undergo. Especially when it comes to academics, a lot of anxieties can stir up in both you and your child. If the let-downs are dealt with effectively, it can help build character and resilience in your child. If not, there can be an increase in anxiety, fear of performance or even resentment.
Competition often helps motivate the child, but at times it is more important to focus on competence instead.
When there is a situation where your child has not succeeded, it is very natural to say, ‘Try harder next time’. But the next time is very far. It is important to focus on your child’s emotions here and now. Just like you, the child also feels disappointment. Hence instead of focusing on the result, encourage your child by talking about the effort that was put in and other positive attributes of your child. For instance, if you helped the child learn for a test and the child gets a C grade, it will be disappointing for you. But remember that is not about you. If you have put in the extra effort, your child also has struggled to learn something that is tough for him/her. Appreciate the effort that your child put in. Praise him/her for what has ben done right and discuss what was missed. And finally plan out a better strategy for next time.
At times your child may not do well in a particular game, task or even a subject, like mathematics, no matter how hard your child tries. This can lead to continuous frustration in the child. Like any adult, even like yourself, your child may not be good at everything. Many times to compensate a lack in a subject children end up sacrificing something that they are good at. For instance children with learning disabilities often become confined to their desks in the struggle to do better, sacrificing artistic or sports activities they might be good at. This leads to frustration and loss of confidence. It is important to help the child compensate for what they are not good at. But it is as important to let the child enjoy what they are good at to feel a sense of achievement.
In the same manner, parents forget to distinguish between their expectations and what the child wants. Expectations at times become much higher than the child’s capability, leading to many emotional problems and a decline in efficiency even in things the child is actually good at. Encourage the child to achieve better, but don’t expect the impossible. Understand what your child’s capability is. If they get a B- in math, try to encourage them to get a B and not expect them to jump to an A+. Each child is different and what comes easily to one may not to another, and your acceptance of that is necessary. If your expectation is always too high, your child may just give up trying.
Finally, don’t label the child. Call the failure a ‘non-success’ or ‘an almost-there attempt’. Talk about your feelings, but only after listening. Pinpointing only shatters confidence and self esteem. Be your child’s cheerleader first and highlight the positives. Only then talk about the negatives and try to work around them together.