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Encouraging daughter who's too hard on herself

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bigtiny

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I have a 9-year-old daughter who is competing level 4 this year. She is doing GREAT, and I am so proud of her. What I am most proud of is how hard she has worked and how much she has overcome (medical problems and being moved to team without ever doing pre-team). I tell her all the time I am proud of her before she ever even competes.

The problem is that she is way too hard on herself. She had a meet this past weekend where she scored:

9.55 Vault
9.65 Bars
9.55 Beam
9.375 Floor
38.175 AA

Her scores were great, and she should have been proud of herself. Instead, she was beating herself up for the mistakes she made. She said it wasn't a good meet because she didn't come in first in anything (the competition was very tough!).

I don't know what to do with her. She gets no pressure from me. I tell all of my girls that the only way they will disappoint me at a meet is if they have a bad attitude. Her coach was pleased with her, too. This is just pressure she is putting on herself. Of course, she is not going to win everything all the time!

Does anyone have any advice how to get through to perfectionist who is so hard on herself?
 

gymmomntc2e6

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Aug 25, 2007
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bigtiny,

first of all let me just say WOW to your dd's meet scores !!! She should be VERY proud of herself.

I have a 7 yr old L3 perfectionist. Somehow though she seems to be ok w/ whatever she gets at a meet (which, has been a HUGE shock for me ). this is the same girl who will do her homework over, and over and over........... if it is not perfect. She writes and illustrates books - which also must be perfect. Loves to draw animals, again which must be perfect. She has very low self esteem as far as school goes but put her in the gym and she is just always happy.

we have just tried to let her know over and over that we just want her to have fun at meets and that we are proud of her if she gets a 10.0 or a 1.0 - we know how hard she works at gymnastics and again as you know there are so many girls out there that they cannot win every time.

I wish I had some good advise for you that you are not already doing - although it was not at the gym my dd's teacher at school will make mistakes (on purpose ) so that the kids will see that even grown ups and teachers make mistakes - she will then try to make light of it - oops, you are right I did make a mistake. That's ok, it happens to everyone, let me fix it.

Explaining to her that everyone at the meet made mistakes will probably not make her feel better. I know my dd does not care - she is generally very hard on herself. We have tried extra hard not to discuss any mistakes she makes at a meet and only talk about the positives - you got you highest score ever on bars etc. She just had her best meet (posted under Best Meet Ever) and she was very happy. She does run off the floor w/her hands at her mouth if she thinks she screwed up.

We have even discussed having the school counselor talk w/ her just to try to reduce her stress level (put there by herself) at school. Not sure if there is anything available to you for that.

I do feel your pain. A perfectionist child can be heartbreaking when you see what they can do to themselves and you just can't figure out why they are so hard on themselves. I wish you and her the best of luck and tell her WAY TO GO at her meet.
 

mariposa

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Here are some links on perfectionist children that might help. Hugs to those mamas with little perfectionists. It is so hard to see them be so hard on themselves. Some are general perfectionist kid articles and some are sports related.

http://www.drkutner.com/parenting/articles/perfectionist.html
http://www.surebaby.com/perfection.php
http://youthsportstips.blogspot.com/2007/02/how-perfectionism-can-hold-back-kids-in.html
http://www.todaysparent.com/schoolage/behaviordevelopment/article.jsp?content=1089408&page=1
http://www.fcps.net/magnets/gifted/rimm/rimm-2.htm
 

Imat3

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Jan 10, 2008
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Thanks for posting the links on the perfectionist children. There was a lot of good information there. I have one who has always struggled with this, so the more info I can get the better.
thanks again,
Imat3
 

Aussie_coach

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Gymnastics is a sport that frequently attracts perfectionist children. Gymnastics is very much the pursuit of not just doing amazing things but doing them perfectly. Her nature makes it difficult for her to handle the stress levels but there will be many advantages in her training aswell. There is nothing more frustrating than a very talented child who loves to throw the hardest skills she can with no regard to the execution. Her nature will be a huge asset to her competitively.

You are lucky in that your daughter will take what she is doing seriously without an adult forcing her to. How many times in the gym have you heard coaches yelling "you have a meet this weekend!" to convince a kid to work hard. Other parents have to tell their kids "no you can't have a sleepover and eat candy all morning then compete". Your daughter will naturally take it seriously.

This being the case I would reccomend you begin to promote the fun side of meets. Make meets fun and special. No matter what happens celebrate after, go out for a fun dinner, invite one of her teammates back for the night. Pick favorite funky songs and play them in the car on the way up.
 
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bigtiny

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Thank you for all of your responses. I agree with what everyone has said, and we are doing what we can to make gymnastics "fun" again for her.

I think I may have figured out part of the problem. Last night when she came home from practice, my daughter told me that the coach had said to her (in front of the other gymnasts) that she wasn't happy with my daughter's performance at the meet and that she really expected her to be getting a 9.8 on both beam and bars. WHAT?!?!:eek:

I am disappointed that the coach is putting pressure on a child who already puts so much pressure on herself. She has gotten a couple of 9.7's on both events, but to ask that of her really gives a whole new meaning to pressure!! Talk about taking the fun out of gymnastics...

Should I say something to the coach or just leave it alone?
 

mariposa

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wow, bigtiny, that really was unnecessary and mean of her coach. i am sure her coach knows that she puts enough pressure on herself. even us moms can tell which kids are the ones that are perfectionists, so the coach could obviously see. do they realize the damage they can do to these little girls emotionally? and how sad it is to do your best and then have someone want you to have done better? i hope we don't ever have to deal with that kind of coach.

i thought she had amazing scores. your poor daughter, no wonder she was so upset. her coach had ruined what should have been an amazing meet/experience for her.

i am a chicken, but i think i would talk to the coach. that is just wrong. gymnastics should be fun.
 

gymmomntc2e6

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Aug 25, 2007
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i am a chicken, but i think i would talk to the coach. that is just wrong. gymnastics should be fun.
I am also a chicken :D, but I must agree something must be said to the coach.
To EXPECT those kinds of numbers out of a kid ( I know she is very talented and capable of them -) but to say you expected more when the scores were very high already - that is just crazy. Most don't score that high - it is way too much pressure. The emphasis should be on fun and trying your best - which may be a 9.8 at one meet and an 8.0 at another.

keep us posted.
 
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beam girl

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I think we may have the same child!!! And I agree with everything Aussie coach said. Your efforts have to be placed on teaching her to chill out and it's going to be very impo r tant to keep an open line of communication with her coach. Hopefully your coach is experienced in coaching gym, and if so would be very knowledgable regarding the compulsive overachiever personality. Good Luck! By the way, I try to make light of everything and tell my dd that I only wish I could be as awesome as she is!!
 
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Billy

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I don't know if it would help any but I always try to tell my DD that I'm proud of her for things other than gymnastics. Now, of course, I tell her I'm proud when she's done something great at practice or whatever, but I also tell her I'm proud of how well she's doing at school or how nice she was to her brother and things like that. I want her to know that my love and pride in her does not depend on gymnastics.
 
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beam girl

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Excellent point Shawn, they must have a life outside of the gym. otherwise they can forget about all of their other talents and gifts. It becomes even more important when they get older.
 
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