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Learning to risk being wrong

(7 Posts)
AChickenCalledKorma Mon 13-Jul-15 13:08:26

Anyone got any good advice for my 13 year old daughter, who says she feels like she has been boxed into a position where "everyone" expects her to have the right answer "all the time"?

She is a very able all-rounder who has just won prizes in seven (!) different subjects at the end of year prize giving. On the way there she got into a right state about how she feels scared to risk answering questions in case she gets them wrong. I don't think there's any reason to think she's withdrawing from class discussion, but she's clearly bottling up the pressure.

We've talked about how important it is to be willing to make a few mistakes. but I don't think she's really "getting" it and I'm concerned for her future mental health. Just wondering if others with very able kids have any insights?

var123 Mon 13-Jul-15 15:27:03

I didn't want to leave your post unanswered. Unfortunately, I do not know the solution.

its easy to see how it can come about: when someone repeatedly does something, everyone starts to expect it of them. Its human nature. In your DD's case, she has performed well academically, so her peers (and possibly her teachers) have started to expect no less of her going forward.

If her teachers are verbalising this in any way, or even displaying it by what they are failing to say, then you should tell them the problem and ask them to stop.

However, its more difficult with her peers, and then most difficult of all with your DD who has high expectations of herself (along with a fear that she won't live up to the expectations).

I do not think you can do anything about the pressure from the other children - anything that is said to them could only make the problem worse - but maybe you could lead your DD towards valuing her performance differently? Maybe (just maybe) encourage her to throw a class test so that she sees exactly how bad it would really be, and then it wouldn't be so scary if for her to imagine having done it for real sometime?

ScottishProf Mon 13-Jul-15 15:49:44

I suggest apologising to her for the inadequacy of her education - if she isn't regularly being asked questions she can't answer, she's not learning as fast as she could, and that's not her fault. (Or yours, probably, or the school's, realistically - it's on behalf of the universe that I suggest you apologise! The important point to make is that it's a bad situation that needs fixing.)

Then sit down with her and make a plan to get her harder work in at least one of those prize areas, with the explicit aim of going on looking for more challenge for her until you find something that's too hard for her (then you back off a notch and let her work on something that's only just not too hard).

Read some Dweck together? Look up ZPD? Discuss education policy? Help her to see that it's not her fault that she feels this way or if she finds it hard to face challenge once you find some, but really important.

Google "what a child doesn't learn" too.

AChickenCalledKorma Mon 13-Jul-15 21:33:39

Thank you both of you - very thoughtful responses which I am still mulling over. ScottishProf I must admit my hackles rose at the first line of your response ... but you are so right grin That "What a child doesn't learn" article is very thought provoking.

Not sure she would be brave enough to flunk a test on purpose. But interestingly enough she sat a piano exam last week which she says went "badly", so that could be a useful learning experience if she really did do badly. She may be surprised to discover that the world doesn't end if she gets a rubbish mark!

CheeseEMouse Mon 13-Jul-15 21:40:10

Or do a hobby where she doesn't find it as naturally easy as academic work? I ice skated as a child - I don't have a natural ability for it, and had to work really hard at it to be ok. At school I was a straight A student. I now think it was a really valuable lesson to know I could be trying my best but still be average.

Also better to do it now, and great you are thinking about it - I went to university with someone who was fantastic academically but failed his driving test. He didn't really know how to cope.

YeOldTrout Mon 13-Jul-15 21:59:52

Dd has had this. It's a confidence thing, I guess, Dd has solid friends who like her no matter what & she has become much more confident about admitting when she didn't know.

Also it's fun to express admiration for others. The more she does that, they like it & respect her for acknowledging it, plus the less pressure on her to seem like she's the one who always knows. A lot of her besties are the ones who have beaten her at something (she's fierce about sport not just academics).

tobysmum77 Tue 11-Aug-15 20:31:10

I realise this is a month old but help her to understand that not everything has a simple right/ wrong answer? In fact academia in the end is about determining the answer to problems and considering different angles. So if she always had an answer immediately then that isn't right.... as it needs thought and analysis to decide.

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