How to deal with fear of failure/'can't do it' ...

(5 Posts)
BestBeastie Fri 04-Nov-16 18:14:18

My four year old son will not draw or write at school because he says he can't do it. He's started reception this year, but is a summer baby. With that in mind, he's pretty on par with the oldest in the class: he's pretty much as good as anyone else with reading and is above average on numbers.

My point is not to try to bask in the achievements of my child - but to say that he CAN do it. There's no learning issue here. He has low confidence. He just HATES not being able to draw 'a tree' (a recognisable tree) and doesn't buy into the idea of learning how to do it at all - it's all or nothing.

This is a very sensitive subject for me. For my whole life I have fought fear of failure and intense self criticism. To me, my achievements are never good enough and I never feel good enough to apply for jobs or put myself forward for things career wise. I realise that this is psychologically exhausting but I cannot shift this self antagonism.

All I try to do is shield it from my son, and attempt to relay positive images about TRYING and learning, no matter how much of a hypocrite I feel. I've focused on this from a young age with him because I'm so aware of how much this way of thinking limits me and how having low self confidence is a self perpetuating nightmare. I am very careful to avoid language of achievement with him and to focus on the enjoyment of learning.

I am now so upset that I have obviously not managed to do this - he was on my lap screaming and crying 'I CAN'T DO IT' when I suggested he draw a tree and I couldn't help burst into tears. I felt like he was inheriting my illness

And I am so confused as to where to go with him now. I don't want to make a big issue of it. I just want him to see what a wonderful and totally unique little person he is - and I want him to learn well before I did about how trying (and failing) is sometimes the best thing that can happen to you.

noisewithdirton Fri 04-Nov-16 18:24:59

My ds2 is a bit like this, partly because he is constantly trying to live up to his older brother's standards. He did tennis lessons and expected to instantly be able to have a game of tennis. Wanted to give up because obviously he could barely hit the hall at first. When he first got in a bike he expected to be able to just ride it... cue immense frustration when he found he couldn't. We are trying to teach him that making mistakes is ok and trying is more important than succeeding. We praise him for effort rather than achievement. Language we use focuses on this so wow you worked really hard on that or I really liked the way you stuck at it until it was done etc.

noisewithdirton Fri 04-Nov-16 18:25:39

*ball not hall!

FlyingCat Fri 04-Nov-16 18:26:24

I could have written your post, my daughter is very very similar - in fact she is not summer born but well in the middle of the school year and advanced in many ways but she struggles terribly with trying things that she doesn't know how to do. In our case she's very like her father in this respect.

Some things we've tried with some success...

- celebrating mistakes : I read this idealistmom.com/kid-gives-up/ and have started celebrating mistakes with her, our rule is a high five for mistakes and if she makes 5 mistakes we have a mummy (or daddy)/ daughter dance party. It adds fun to the process and shows her actively that mistakes are a good thing.

- second of all giving her space to try on her own without us watching. I find this tough as I like doing things with her but she's far more likely to give things a go when I'' not there. I think sometimes she wants to impress me...

- only try new stuff when she's feeling resilient... i.e. Not tired or hungry!

- finally we try and spend lots of time on the stuff she IS already good at, (for her that is running, jumping, climbing, and adding in things all the time) and remind her about the times when she couldn't do them or found them hard.

Hope there's something there that works for you!

Sugarcoma Sat 05-Nov-16 20:28:54

I read a story about the Oscar nominated director ofThe Big Short, Adam McKay, and he used to be head writer on American sketch show Saturday Night Live - he said he would come up with 20 ideas for each show of which only about 3 were used but that no one ever remembered the failures - just the successes. Not sure how to communicate that to a child but I think it's a fantastic lesson.

Celebrating mistakes sounds great too - in my job Im meant to send multiple pitches a week and would get v disheartened when no one replied/i was rejected. but then I saw this idea of aiming for 100 rejections a month and it was a total change in perspective - I couldn't bitch when people rejected me because it had become my goal. So I sent more pitches and of course the acceptance rate went up accordingly. Again, too complex to explain to a small child but I think these are such great lessons to learn early on.

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