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Won't try in case she gets it wrong - what to do?

(7 Posts)
twostepsforwardonestepback Sun 03-Feb-13 15:12:53

My DC has become more and more reticent. Teachers say she answers questions on a one to one and does well in exams but she looks terrified if asked in class.
They are worried as the work gets more difficult that she won't ask when stuck.
I thought she simply didn't want to give a very competitive friend a chance to wind her up about being thick. (Neither DD nor I are sure why the friend is so competitive. In everything, either she has to win/be better or the subject /activity is pronounced useless and irrelevant.
Usual teenage girl stuff but ..
this morning we were having pancakes and I had to do something quickly with DD3 so asked DD1 to cook them - batter already made - and she said "no, I'll just make a mess of it"hmm
I laughed and said I always have to bin the first one!
She got in a total flap and then DH came back and took over.
But she has often made pancakes for family and is better than me??
I worry that she is getting scared to try more things in case she "fails" and its getting worse.
Doesn't call friends as they are probably busy
Competitive friend was saying how many friends she'd had texts from - DD v sad as she had not but friend texts everyone and they reply
Suggested she text some but no to see what they were up to but no....
What can I do to help?
Long - sorry

twostepsforwardonestepback Sun 03-Feb-13 22:38:14

I know the pancakes example sounds silly but it was sort of the last straw. She is so scared of making mistakes so easier not to try. In class, with friends, joining clubs or teams, participating in drama .... It is getting worse and worse
if you dont try, you cant fail/ be rebuffed/ not picked for team etc etc
I would really appreciate help on this.sad

Vicky13 Sun 03-Feb-13 23:01:12

Hi Twosteps

Sorry you haven't had a reply. I've been watching with interest to see if anyone had any suggestions. I was exactly the same as a teen. I now have an 11yo DD who is starting to show signs of being the same.

I try to let her have lots of responsibility and encourage her, but I can still see the same lack of confidence that I had at that age. I think it's when the teenage peer pressure stuff kicks in that it's worse. I'm not an unconfident adult now, but as a teen, I sometimes didn't even speak for whole days at school.

Good luck - and let me know if you come up with any great solutions! Sorry I can't be any more help


twostepsforwardonestepback Mon 04-Feb-13 21:38:04

Thanks for your reply Vicky. Good to know you got past it as an adult.
I try to give DD responsibility but she won't take much - it all comes into the "if I don't try, then I can't fail". It's horrible as she is getting more and more withdrawn. Hope your DD gets more confident. It is quite scary to see them pull back.

JugglingChaotically Wed 06-Feb-13 22:37:11

Bump. Nothing to add but hoping for replies

flow4 Thu 07-Feb-13 08:35:24

I think this is a real problem. My DS1 suffered from it badly. Looking back, I can see it started around his reception year, and writing was the issue for him. Up to that point, everything he'd ever done had come easily and naturally to him - climbing, running, riding bikes/trikes, building things with lego and yoghurt pots, reading, talking - it had all just come naturally. But suddenly he was expected to do something that didn't come naturally, and he didn't like it at all.

Looking back, I can see what I would have done when he was very young: I'd've given him more opportunities to do things that were difficult, and minimised or 'talked it down' when he failed. "Can't you do it? Oh well, never mind!" As it was, I tried to be very 'enabling', and praised and encouraged and effectively 'protected' him from having to deal with any failure.

It's harder to see what to do about it when they're teens. It's hard to see how one can create little opportunities for them to 'practice' failing, safely, and without much fuss; but I think we should if we can.

A wise friend of mine observed that fear of failure tends to become a vicious circle, because if they never push on through the fear, they forget how good success feels. And they come to associate trying with only the fear and anxiety they feel beforehand. sad

That certainly seemed true for my son, and it became a real problem.

I talked to him about it. That insight did seem to help a bit. I emphasised how bad 'not trying' was making him feel, and how good it would feel if he succeeded. In the end, right at a major crunch point where the stakes were high and the negative fallout would have come quickly, and in the face of major fear and 'fight or flight' instincts, he nevertheless gathered his courage and tried. And thankfully succeeded. It was a real turning point for him.

I wish you luck with your DS, twosteps.

Alonglongway Thu 07-Feb-13 09:58:49

I have one DC like this and younger one who plugs away at hard things and slowly improves and copes well with things going wrong - so far. The older one can see the difference but still can't easily overcome the fear of failure and specifically the fear of disappointing people. We have encouraged her in a big new physical activity - riding - which is definitely helping. Also, on advice from a friend who went through similar, I try to help her break down worrying tasks into chunks and tackle them a bit at a time. Eg she just missed a deadline for an important essay and admitted it was fear of failure. One thing that helps is to work out what's the worse that can happen and go into a bit of detail on that.

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