Monday, September 04, 2006

Fear of Failure

Half way though our first day back at home education. Sam, of course is away to real school. Jude has been quietly getting on with her reading. Today she has a piano lesson. She hasn't practiced all summer long. I don't mind really, she's been having fun. But today she sat at the piano and couldn't remember how the piece went. I played it to her on the flute, but explained that I didn't know how the piece went either, but I was reading the notes and playing what I read. I tried to get her to do the same. Jude has an immense fear of failure. Reading the book, How Children Fail, I now understand and see this more. She will not have a go at playing a piece by sight reading it. Instead, she memorizes each line of the music, and plays it from memory without looking at the book at all. What a difficult way to play the piano. I tried to encourage her to try to sight read it. I said to her, it doesn't matter how bad it sounds, how many mistakes you make, it can sound really dreadful, but at least try to look at the music and play what you read. Instead, she burst into tears and ran off to her room. Her fear of failing is so immense that she won't even try. I am at a loss as to what to do about it. Other than encouraging her to try, what else can I do? She can't complete all her grades in piano by memory. And she does love to play the piano, she is not forced to do it. I notice she is the same in maths. If you try to explain something, and she doesn't understand it, she cries and gets so terribly upset. No matter how much I explain to her that it doesn't matter if she can't do it, if she doesn't understand or if she makes a mistake, it doesn't change her behaviour. At school the teachers told me she was very bright, but she took so much longer than everyone else to complete her work, because she was so afraid of making a mistake. Ah, what am I to do?


steve said...

you should carry on doing what you have been doing . an excellent job with our kids. keep up the good work I am so proud of you

Maddi said...

The only stuff I could find on the net basically says what you probably already know. That it usually develops from something that's happened, like having experienced a failure where they were ridiculed and developing a fear of it. Maybe when Jude was at school cos I know she had some bad teachers?

Does she know that she is like that? If not maybe you could talk to her about it and help her to understand what she is like so she can learn to try and change it.

Only other things I can find say that the best cure is to be in the kind of environment she is in, loving and nurturing where she's free to learn and get things wrong and she'll change over time.

The last thing it seems to be saying is that we need to help kids to fail in small situations so they can learn that failure is part of life and they can learn from it and get better. Without being exposed to failure they will never reach their full potential and need to understand it makes them less likely to fail and be better at things in the future.

Not very helpful I'm afraid but I tried to find out!


marian said...

Tried to post a comment on your blog about Jude, typed it twice, it wouldnt let me complete the transaction.

Like Steve said you are doing well. No right answers here! You could (or may have tried already) trying to find out what is behind her sense of failure. What does she fear will happen if she fails. Is it scrutiny by others, lack of praise and acknowledgement, lack of validation for her effort? If she is a naturally anxious child she could be using this avenue to vent her anxieties which is what anxious people do. They have to find an object for their anxiety. Trouble is as you know, they often miss the fun and enjoyment in the event or situation and everything becomes a chore. She also has the fact that she is a self conscious child, not helped by peers at school. Hopefully with your positive reinforcement and gentle challenging of her 'fears' so that she sees mostly they are unfounded, she may as she grows in confidence be able to contain her anxiety better and not let it be such a distressing part of her life.

You could try a few behaviour experiments. Do them on yourself and let her watch. She probably could not cope with them herself. Do things which you get wrong, let her watch and see you laugh it off or someone else laugh it off. Prime people if necessary to know what you are doing. Let her observe the consequences to you failing or making mistakes. If you feel it is helping, up the ante and think about eventually exposing her to an experiment where she deliberately gets something wrong and feels she can deal with the consequences. Would need to be something small that she could cope with. You would need to talk about it with her and perhaps someone else like me to brain storm possible responses or consequences which might occur and how she would deal with them. This would help her deal with failure much better.

Anonymous said...

She must have inhereited it from her aunty hannah. She is a perfectionist like me, at school if I felt I couldn't do a task perfectly, e.g an essay, Id avoid it and find ways to not start it and once I did it would take forever cos it had to be perfect. I was always getting into trouble for not having my work in on time. It's a terrible way to be. That's why I did so well in my QCSE's cos i felt I had to be perfect, but it can make your life a misery in the process. I think being around people who don't care about those things helped me to lighten up too. So mums and maddis ideas would probably be good.