My 8 year old son is an absolutely fantastic kid. He's very talented athletically, wonderful to his younger sister, polite, tells us when he's done something wrong...just a great kid. And it isn't just a parent thinking their child is good - whenever he goes to a friends house their parents tell us how well-behaved and polite he was, can we keep him, etc.
One problem, though. He his so hard on himself that he often holds himself back. One example is in baseball. He's very good but often one miss in the field will "end" his day. Yesterday he lost a pop up in the sun and got so mad that he missed several other easy balls right after that he would never miss normally. I can always see it coming in his body language because his shoulders drop. The same holds true for academics. He's not the smartest kid in his class but he's above average. If he and I are going through his homework and I find a mistake he gets "locked-up" and can't think straight. I certainly don't beat him up for mistakes - I'm always telling him its OK to make mistakes, nobody's perfect, etc.
Its gotten so bad that my wife told him if he couldn't relax and enjoy sports we'll pull him out. He really loves sports so we don't want to do that but we also can't let him implode every time he makes a mistake. We obviuosly can't do that for school. Anyone ever experience this and find anything that helps? Its great that he strives for perfection and wants to do well but it just kills me to watch him beat himself up.
My son was very similar to your son at 8 years old. We told him the same things and offered the same advice. Eventually, he just grew out of it. He is 11 1/2 now and it is almost non existent. I think part of it has been "fixed" because he started the TAG program around that age and quickly realized that he was not going to be the best at everything.
He is still very smart and excels in most subjects, but what he really excels at has put some distance between the subjects he is not as good at or excited about. I think he was always very self concerned about being the best at everything, even when it was not necessarily something he enjoyed or cared about. Now I think we have got him to realize that each person is not expected to master every single subject, and that different people grow up to do different things.
I would not worry too much about it for a few more years.
“Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.”
If so, remind him of what Mack Brown says: don't let one game beat you twice.
Meaning, if you keep focusing the one you lost, you won't be in a position to win the next one.
If he hears it coming from someone like Mack, it might stick a little more. No offense to you as a dad, but sometimes advice that we get from our parents just doesn't "stick" as much as it would from someone else.
Yes, he is a huge longhorn fan, so I've used quotes from Augie and Mack to try and help him deal with frustrating times. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.
In reply to:
ending the day due to a mistake is not being too hard on oneself, it is being too easy.
I understand you point completely and maybe I didn't explain it well enough - I don't mean that he quits, in fact its the opposite. He gets so upset about the mistake and tries so hard that he screws up more. He focuses on the mistake more than the opportunity to fix it. I guess he needs to work on his focusness...
as far as baseball - he's 8 so he'll eventually grow out of it....at least that had been my experience in coaching youth baseball.
Yor or the coach should develop a trigger word or action for him when he's on the field and he makes a mistake. My team uses "flush", as in flush the mistake down the toilet and forget about it. I make the player look at me, extend his hand out with the thumb up then turn this thumb sideways like he's flushing a toilet lever...if it's really bad we do the double flush. This was a method taught to me by the Positive Coaching Alliance...it works really well for the majority of the kids.
What do you boys want for breakfast, Bar-B-Que?....OK Chili
You know, just a suggestion -- the Augie and Mack advice was great, but you can honestly take it one step further, and in my experience, it's a POWERFUL step.
Talk to Augie (Mack's probably a bit hard to get a hold of, but who knows -- he CAN be reached). Give him a 30-60 second breakdown of how your son respects the heck out of him, and what his problem is. Then ask if Augie wouldn't mind talking to him for a couple of minutes.
You could easily stay after one of the baseball games and catch Augie on the way out -- you could even tell Augie which game it would be. Say hi, get his autograph, and when you're chatting with him, mention that "yeah, Jimmy here loves baseball -- we're just working on getting him to not beat himself up when he makes a bad play." That will give Augie his window/cue, and he'll damned well say something along the lines of "I tell all my guys not to let a mistake beat them twice." He might even connect it to a specific player -- who knows. But Augie's a damned good man, with as brilliant a perspective on the psychology of young men and sports as I've ever seen. It's worth a shot.
I speak from a tiny bit of experience -- we were at an airshow in SA a few months ago, waiting in line to meet the pilots of the F-22 Raptor there for a demo (in short, the most badass pilots on earth). We were talking about the planes and flying them with my son (a huge airplane freak) and my daughter (not so much, but at least interested and appreciative of the stunts). My daughter mentioned maybe flying a plane like that one day (shocking, because she is WAY risk-averse). Stupidly, I spoke up pragmatically and said "well, with your vision, you probably can't, but maybe you can do something else with the program."
One of the pilots heard me. "You come over here." He waved both of us through the line over to him, and he looked my daughter square in the eye -- "I'm gonna tell you -- my vision is probably worse than yours, and I NEVER let anyone tell me what I couldn't do. If you want to fly, then you can fly. If you want it bad enough, you can do ANYTHING that you want to do. You understand me?" My daughter never unlocked from his gaze -- she just nodded yes, and goddamit, she believed him.
What I had told my daughter 1,000 times never really got through, because I'm her dad, and I was also the [censored] who noted her limitations. But this guy -- ramrod straight, all-american badass, with a gentle, firm, and authoritative 10 second speech, got her to believe it for the first time.
Those guys are heroes in my book, and it ain't just because they can fly the baddest bird ever made.
Try it -- what is [censored] from you is often gospel when it comes from someone else. And you can then remind your kid of it whenever you have to -- "remember what coach Augie told you to do."
"It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD."
My son was a lot like yours at that age too, especially in baseball. Now he's more like O&W's kid, age 12, and well-adjusted. I coached or asst. coached him in little league for years, and one tip was to give a mixture of praise and admonishment.
If he made an error, I wouldn't be too hard on him and tell him good effort. However, if he threw a fit in front of the team, I would chew him out in front of the whole team in the dugout and threaten to pull him out of the game if he wasn't having fun.
another "too easy" vote here. Gee I made a mistake and now I just can't get past it... It's about mental toughness.
Also KNOWING and being TOLD BY THE PARENTS that you are going to make mistakes and that is exactly how we learn is a very good thing. I am a pretty successful soccer coach, good enough to where the professional coaches and select leagues try to screw me in tournaments now by seeding my younger kids up a bracket so I don't "take" their divisional trophy.
I coach my kids letting them know every time we do a new drill that "you are going to make mistakes and that's all part of learning." I usually use an example they can relate to... "you didn't walk into first grade and know how to multiply did you?" But you know how to multiply now don't you? THe nodding heads agreeing.. You didn't get every multiplication problem correct did you? Head shaking side to side... Soccer and life are the same way, the only way you get better is by making mistakes and working to correct them. There is NO OTHER METHODOLOGY to improvement in ANY arena in life.
Once kids/ teens/parents realize that mistake are all part of the learning process the frustration eases considerably. The kids that really want to master a skill simply work a little harder at it. You make the mistake, try to learn from the mistake and you move on. That's how we learn.
In the example where the pro coaches are trying to seed m team up a bracket, they don't realize they are HELPING ME! Because my kids are going to get praised for the effort and improvements, and not the result on the scoreboard. The results on the scoreboard will come in time but a kid who is afraid to try something new in a game that we ahve worked on in proactice will never improve at the same pace as a kid that will try the new technique knowing that most likely they will fail. I realize baseball is more simple and isloated as in dropping a ball, but the mentality is the same. I tell my kids the ONLY time they need to not feel good about their play is when they have not played their hardest. If they are not playing their hardest I will be tough on them. Not really tough, but tougher honestly than I used to be. The reason I am tougher on effort is that is something that no matter thaier level of skill, or number of mistakes or successes it is my only expectation. Play HARD, when you are on the field, or get your hand up and let me substitute someone else in. Past that I will give special recognition to the EFFORT of a kid that tries a new move on the playing field even if they fail. So when the pro coaches try to make sure my team cannot win the division trophy by seeding us as the weakest team in a stronger group, my kids respond by improving, rather than cratering. You can play a GREAT game and get your ass kicked, and you can play a CRAPPY game and destroy the other team. It's about effort, and willingness to make mistakes, learn from them and move on. Getting beaten down, is how you pull yourself up to a higher level.
The pro coaches are hoping my kids will "get down on themselves" and they can then cherry pick some of the best players off my team. It isn't going to work and they are going to have a really nasty team to deal with in another year (we just formed 3 weeks ago), because my kids are not afraid to make mistakes or screw up, it's all part of the the game... and the game of life...
Communicate in careful, realistic voiced, what you are able to see with him making obvious self-inflicted mental trauma due to his body being obviously tensed up and drooped after a misque. Meaning he has to understand and acknowledge he is contributing to the second and beyond errors by not giving himself a break. Make him understand that and acknowledge that with the understanding that you want to try and help him get past that with the following advice:
From a purely zen and possibly physical perspective tell him to take a few deep breaths after a mistake. Deep breath in, and then pushing the breath out slow and long. Repeat that about 3 or 4 times as you tell youself to relax and have fun. Relax and have fun(exhale). Relax and have fun(exhale).
It should help him relax at the point his nature tells him to stiffen up. All of athletics is made up of being able to relax at the moment a ball is in your catching zone, a ball is approaching your hitting zone so you start to swing, you begin your ascent to take a jump shot, etc, etc.
Being able to relax is paramont and only possibly trails or works in concert with the act of focusing on what is the task at hand.(catching, hitting, shooting, pitching, swinging(golf), etc, etc)
Who knows if an 8 year old will respond to any of that.
the Augie idea is awesome btw.
My little man just turned 1. We are working on basic motivations right now with praise for good things and redirection for things we are unable yet to communicate to him effectively. Being a parent is a great thing, I recommend it. (bring your wallet though)
I think Summer really nailed this: mental toughness. There are different ways to handle this with certain kids. Way back when my daughter was in MS soccer (she's now in college), she asked me, "what am supposed to get out of sports?" Thinking quickly, I came up with 3 rules that still stand in our house:
1) Have fun ---- if you are not having fun, why go through all the effort?
2) Try your best --- especially on team sports where you can let your team down.
3) Try to get better --- during the season & between seasons.
Most of all #1 because after MS & HS 99% of us will not be playing varsity sports again. Take the time to enjoy the game, bond with your friends, and just have fun. Have a big smile on your face.
I haven't read other responses so sorry if this is repeat.
I am like this and so is my son. He's 7. He's made huge progress in the past two years.
I'm not sure of all the reasons for it but I totally "feel" those reasons. As a kid (and now if I don't control myself) I would get very upset with myself if I did anything wrong.
I think a big part of this reaction is an outward show. It's hard to explain but it's like you are punishing yourself for the group and that you want to make sure everyone knows that you do not accept this from yourself and you are almost apologizing for existing. I don't know if that makes any sense.
Here's what I would say to him...
"you are 8. and you are a wonderful person. Your mom and I love you very much and we are very proud to be your parents. Your friends look up to you a lot and they also are proud to know you. You are old enough to now understand that your gifts and talents are a responsibility and not just something for you to enjoy. When you react the way that you do about making a mistake it is not acting in the way that you were made to act (mine would be a little more religious but i'm not trying to force that on someone here).
You mom and I are disappointed when we see you act that way. We are NOT disappointed when you make a mistake. It is time for you to learn to control that part of you that wants to show how upset with yourself you are when you mess up. This has nothing to do with sports son. This has to do with growing up to be a man like me.
I love you very much but I will simply not accept that behavior from you any more. You are going to have to learn to control your emotions and prove to yourself that you can overcome mistakes and let them become things you learn from so that you can do better next time. If you stop trying to learn from your mistakes, you've let them beat you."
This, in some version, is what I use if I see signs of this in my son. It has worked for me. I hope it is helpful in some way.
My experience is that it seems harsh but if delivered correctly, the kid cries in a different way about this conversation and they walk away with a better perspective. Of course, it is not a magic pill or anything but I find that this approach has helped a lot. I would not focus too much attention on the "we still love you when you make mistakes" because the tough love message is the one that I think really gets through. Sugar coating doesn't fix this, it just helps it go down. This is a tough kid. He needs to understand which direction to apply his toughness.
I don't know your kids team im just speaking from expierence with my son at that age. It wasn't as much the fact that he made an error there was always one or two mister baseball kids who never did make a mistake that would rag him or anything kid about it. And he would do the same as your son. Walk a batter or two and then his mindset is off. Once he realized how to tell them to go f themselves he got over it.