Dealing with pressure, exam anxiety and fear of school
Dealing with perfectionism
Perfectionist children want to do everything particularly well. You have high expectations of yourself and want to master new tasks right away, for example. They are angry with themselves, if they do not come to a correct result right away, take individual mistakes or failures to heart and hardly allow themselves to rest. Most of these children react very sensitively and strongly emotionally (crying, outbursts of anger) to criticism, at the same time it is difficult for them to look forward to positive feedback because they perceive much that is valuable as a disguised attack and “ignore” praise. They are often worried that their performance is not good enough and their value as a person depends on their grades.
During lectures and seminars, I am often asked what you can do if your own child is perfectionistic. Many parents look for “the mistake” in themselves, are afraid that at some point they have put their child under too much pressure or that they have promoted ambition unnoticed. I have seen many parents who love their child unconditionally, do not care much about their child’s achievements and want to encourage their child to be more relaxed about themselves. They are the last to put pressure on their child and suffer from the fact that their child “cannot even let five be straight”, “wants to make everything perfect” and “can hardly forgive mistakes”. Some children are naturally very performance-oriented. Despite an unconditionally loving, relaxed and not performance-oriented home, they are very ambitious. In our experience, parents who "instill" ambitions in their children are rather rare. Sometimes, however, an unfavorable situation develops unnoticed, which increases the pressure to perform on the child:
Make affection dependent on performance
Each of us has a need for recognition. We want to increase our self-esteem, share our successes with others in order to feel the feeling of joy and pride even more. Children unconsciously learn to differentiate in which situations their caregivers are particularly caring and loving and when they are more distant or dismissive. If children feel that parents make their love, affection and attention particularly dependent on which grades they bring home or how they do in a competition, an excessive motive for achievement in the child can be encouraged. In some families, a real game develops:
Maria (comes home radiant)
Mother: "Well, you’re in a good mood today. What was the matter?"
Mother: "I don’t know …"
Maria: "Well, I’ll tell you. We got the math exam back. ”
Mother begins to count up from grade 4
Maria shakes her head amused every time.
Mother (opens her eyes in amazement): "A 6 ?!"
Maria (nods happily): "Mhm!"
Mother (takes Maria in her arms): “It’s a great surprise. Man super! Come sit down. You thought it would have gone so bad … and then such a great grade. That’s amazing. I’m really happy for you!"
Of course, it is nice for children if parents are happy about good grades and comfort them with bad grades. Many parents want to strengthen their child by emphasizing their good performance. However, especially with very perfectionist children, this often means that the topic of performance becomes even more important for them. If notes are "celebrated" excessively in a very ambitious child, the shot can backfire. Especially when parents are barely emotionally available with a bad grade, are more concerned with their own disappointment than with the child or are supposedly comforting statements such as: "A 4 is quite okay … what do the others have?" "You could! How did that happen? "" Why did you do it wrong, we discussed that? ": Children feel that their parents are giving bad grades a big issue, want to know exactly how the others compare performance or what the class index was like, bad grades become a threat and the comparison with others suddenly becomes central. It is no longer a question of whether you make an effort and try to improve yourself through practice, but rather about being “good” as compared to the others. From the point of view of many children, mistakes due to the constant competitive situation become a "small catastrophe" that one wants to avoid by all means.
A child does not want to worry about his parents
Children often instinctively notice when exams also jitter their parents. If a child experiences that one of the parents already has a stomach ache due to the upcoming math exam and is going back and forth a little excitedly in the morning, in the sense of "If things go well", it is easy to conclude that exams are very important and at the same time threatening are. The pressure to do particularly well to take care of parents’ concerns is increasing. In some cases, difficult situations at home, such as a separation of parents, a sick sibling or the death of a family member, make children even more ambitious. They feel that their parents are understandably tense and concerned at the moment and do not want to burden them with bad grades.
What can I do so that my child can handle achievements more relaxed?
As you saw in the first paragraphs, it can make sense not to attach too much importance to notes. We can show an ambitious child that we are happy about their success with them and at the same time let them know that other things in life are even more important to us. If the grades are bad, you can convey to the child: “I understand that you are disappointed, but as your mother I am not confused by this grade. For me you are valuable as a person, no matter how good you are and you will go your way, I am sure. "
3 steps to a more relaxed handling of mistakes
A more relaxed approach to mistakes takes time and practice. Are you ready to work on this with your child? Let’s go!
Find the conversation
Has there been an incident in the past few weeks in which your child’s perfectionism has been particularly noticeable? Did it start crying with homework, long annoyed with a good (but not very good) grade or didn’t want to play football anymore than missed the goal? Take such a situation as a hanger for a conversation. In it, you discuss with your child the advantages of having a more relaxed approach to mistakes and failures:
Father and Jonas are in bed together in the evening.
Father: "You Jonas, I still wanted to talk to you. Last week you were so frustrated when you made a mistake with the dictation, also recently with the math exam. What do you think? What would be different if you didn’t mind that much anymore? How would it be for you if you could see such mistakes more easily?"
Jonas: "Don’t know …. Like the others maybe? So that I could also be happy about the grade if everything wasn’t right. "
Father: "Yes, definitely. Do you see any other benefits? Perhaps you wouldn’t be so sad with your homework if you didn’t come up with the right solution right away … "
Jonas: "Can be … And the others would not say anymore: Now he cries again like a baby because of a 5.5 if I get tears when I pass the exam."
Father: "Good point. You know what? You would probably also have more fun learning, playing sports and playing games if you don’t mind that much anymore if something goes wrong. ”
Jonas: "Yes. And I could maybe concentrate more quickly or continue practicing if I don’t have to worry about individual mistakes for so long. "
Make dealing with mistakes a competence
Dealing with mistakes and being able to lose can be seen as a skill that can be trained. From your child’s point of view, who is particularly good at dealing with mistakes? Maybe your child has an athletic role model or a musical idol? Children often suspect that their idol can handle it if something goes wrong. They firmly believe that the singer quickly recovers after a lopsided tone in the concert or that the striker is not crying on the pitch after a missed goal, but is instead concentrating on the game again. Such idols are suitable as role models that show how to deal with a difficult situation. Questions could include:
- What do you think will … get so angry / sad if he / she makes a mistake (misses, plays the wrong tone, etc.)
- What do you think, then what does he / she do??
- What do you think he / she says to himself??
For a football player, it could look like this:
If the Goali Manuel Neuer made a mistake in his career, he was probably annoyed. But then he had to concentrate on the game again. He’s probably saying things like:
“Getting really good takes practice. At some point I have the right twist. ”
"Keep calm and concentrate again."
"Goals are part of the game."
"That went wrong now. You hold the next one. "
Are there sentences that could also help your child to deal with his mistakes? Write them down together. You may also want to design a poster on which the idol with the sentences can be seen.
Practice dealing with mistakes
The next step is to develop a training plan. You look for situations in everyday life in which the child needs the competence "dealing with mistakes". This can include a difficult puzzle, a game in which the child (possibly) loses, or a complicated dictation. Important: These situations are discussed with the child and targeted!
Father: "You wished to get better at … (losing, dealing with mistakes). We are doing a training camp in the next few weeks. Do you agree Let’s start with a difficult one … where you’re sure to make mistakes. Let’s look at the poster again. What do you say to yourself if you make a mistake? (…) OK. Do you think you can do it? So let’s get started. (Chuckles a little). This is mega difficult, you are sure to make mistakes. Your job now is to deal with the mistakes. We’re not going to look at how well you are doing the job, ok? Are you ready? I’m curious…."
At the end of the training session, father asks Jonas how he has fared and praises him for being much more relaxed about his mistakes. He also asks him how the situation felt for him and talks to him about how nice it will be if he can stay calm in such situations.
In the next few weeks, the difficulty of the training will increase further (work on unsolvable tasks, point Jonas to the mother about a mistake, etc.) Jonas is warned in advance ("Jonas, we want to practice again today how you become more relaxed with mistakes. Today I will criticize you if something goes wrong. Your job is to remain calm. Do you remember what you do to yourself Can you say? Are you ready? "). Jona’s ambition is redirected in this way. While in the past it was all about mastering everything as perfectly as possible, now the goal is being built to deal with mistakes as well as possible. Jonas competition is aroused – he definitely wants to learn that. While at the beginning Jonas faces his mistakes in "training" with clenched teeth and a few tears, over time he becomes more and more competent. He also notices and receives feedback from his parents that he stays much calmer when something fails and he is also a little proud of his new ability. Over time, the father realizes that Jonas has mastered his new ability well in the announced training sessions. He no longer starts to cry and knows what sentences to say in these difficult moments. At this level, the father no longer has to announce the training session. He can say to Jonas: “In the future I won’t tell you when exactly we are training. I always make sure that something small goes wrong and you see that you can handle it, ok? "
more on the subject "Dealing with perfectionism, frustration and failure" they find out:
- in our parents seminar "I can not do this! Strengthen children’s self-efficacy"
- in our book "Secure, brave, free – how children find inner strength" (Clicking on the cover takes you directly to the ordering option):
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