Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Parenting: Fear of Failure

Ice Girl is a figure skating nut. She waltz jumps down the grocery store aisles. She takes her spinner on sleep overs. She PIC skates at the park.

Ice Girl received a new 1 minute, 36 second program last Tuesday for her first big competition in Milwaukee. She received it with only two weeks to practice because we had a Basic Skills competition in Rockford two weeks ago. Understandably, Ice Coach didn't want Ice Girl to become confused.

Ice Girl practiced and practiced the program's elements, but the new music threw her. It's not really new music, but it's a different cut of the same long piece. It throws her.

I tried to be helpful and suggested that she play the CD in the van on the way to practice while she visualized the program and moved her arms as if she were skating. It's an old teaching trick and I'm an old teacher. I know that stuff works.

To my surprise, Ice Girl balked at the suggestion. I transferred the music to her MP3 player so she could listen to it and step through the routine on the back lawn. Somehow, that MP3 player just doesn't have batteries. Or headphones. Shoot. Someone might have stolen the stupid thing.

My frustration began to grow. I couldn't figure out why Ice Girl was putting off listening to her music and trying to time her program appropriately. I know how much the Milwaukee Open means to her and I just couldn't figure out what was going on.

Ice Girl sure wasn't telling me, either.

So. I put on my old teacher's hat (I'm now an education writer, so it's still a hat that fits, kinda) and tried to remember why some gifted students simply wouldn't put pen to paper. I recently did an interview with Allen Mendler, Ph.D., who wrote a book about motivating unmotivated students. He said that students aren't motivated if they don't have what he calls the three Cs: connection, competence, and control.

I knew Ice Girl had a connection with the ice. That's for sure. She and the ice have bonded.
She was clearly in control; she decided when and if to listen to her music. I don't want to force her; I want to encourage her. (It's a mantra I repeat all the time.)

It must be the middle one: competence. Somehow, Ice Girl was afraid of failure.

In the van on the way to Sun Prairie's rink last night, I talked to Ice Girl about fear of failure. It can paralyze a person. The task ahead seems so overwhelming, so unachievable, that a person becomes paralyzed and unable to face the smaller steps towards the goal. Is that what's going on, Ice Girl?

Big tears.

Ice Girl was afraid that she'd never get the timing right (she'd had the program one week) and that she wouldn't do well in Milwaukee. She's skipped up six levels in Learn to Skate and she was worried that everyone else would be so much better than she. Sob. Sob.

I told her I'd watch her and try to give her feedback. Let's face it: I'm not a coach. I'm not even a figure skating expert. I'm the driver and the seamstress.

Anyway, it was enough. We listened to the music in the van on the way there and we talked about music cues for different elements.

She got on the ice and had the ice monitor play, play, play that CD.

In the end, the program's pretty good. She's got a bit of a timing issue before her final jump, but it's nowhere near the disaster it was just yesterday morning.

Parenting lesson: Sometimes motivation is a funny thing. When my daughter doesn't do what she normally would, it's frustrating for me. I need to see past my frustration and figure out what's motivating her or unmotivating her. Stepping back is the tough part, though.


Aaron said...

What a feel good story! That wasn't only an ice girl lesson, that was a life lesson!

Ice Mom said...

Thanks, Aaron. Yeah, Ice Girl and I both feel better about the whole thing.

I might have, um, glossed over the bits where I played the frustrated parent. *sigh*

I'm trying, though! :)

Susan from said...

Oh boy...I was getting a teary myself reading the story. I feel for Ice Girl -- don't us adults do the same thing, just not with skating? Maybe, oh, I don't know, tests? job stuff? life? I'll keep the three C's in mind for next time.

Sonic Edge said...

Good luck with the frustration.

For great skating music, check out Sonic Edge Music

Laura said...

Wow, I agree with Susan that us adults do have the same problem. I am a chronic procrastinator and I'm pretty sure the Ice girl assessment is applicable to me as well...

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Ice Mom! I definitely deal with paralyzing fear of failure all the time - from school to jobs to social situations. Most of all, I'm impressed that you were able to figure out what was upsetting your daughter and motivate her in a supportive way instead of just making her feel guilty about not trying what you said. Great ice parenting!

Angie said...

I had to laugh about your comment about ice girl waltz jumping in store isles! My daughter does the SAME thing! Just the other day, she was trying a waltz jump on the front lawn in her quad roller skates! ACK! :-)