My daughter is very hard on herself if she doesn’t perform very well the first time she attempts anything. She recently began playing in tennis tournaments and has won more than lost, but her behavior when losing is terrible. How do we help her deal with her frustration at not being perfect and channel that energy so that it works for her? Is this a sign that she is too young to compete?
Dr. Cohn’s Answer:
No, this is not a sign that she is too young. This is a sign that you have a perfectionist daughter. This trait can be helpful because it will help her improve, practice hard, and set high goals.
However, having perfectionist tendencies in sports can also be a challenge when athletes do not perform up to their abilities (or own expectations). She likely becomes upset when she does not perform up to her own expectations. Therefore, you need to talk to her about lowering her expectations and allowing herself to commit human errors.
In addition, your daughter has to learn to let go of mistakes when she plays in tennis tournaments. Everybody makes mistakes; it is a natural part of human nature. Typically, perfectionist athletes tend to beat themselves up and dwell on their mistakes. Your daughter should let go of thoughts such as ‘I should never have made that mistake.’
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