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Encouraging words give my little girl a confidence boost

Posted by on July 20, 2012 – 8:00 am

So when your child is struggling with something, do you lend a hand or let them try to figure it out? Do you offer encouraging words? If they want to quit, do you say, “Yes?”
Or is it best to just not to say a thing?
I’ve faced all of these in the last few days. Right now, I can hear my 7-year-old daughter trying to figure out how to do something on a Wii Kids Fit game.
“I can’t do this. I don’t know how. I need help.”
But when her brother tries to lend a hand, she pushes him away.
See, really, she wants to figure it out on her own.
Or take her diving meet earlier this week.
The kids do five dives during the meet. As they take to the diving board, the judges announce which board they are to do. If they do the wrong one, they don’t get a score.
“Incorrect dive,” the judge will say.
That’s just what my daughter heard after her first dive. After she hopped out of the water, she came to find me.
Eyes a little red, she was upset she’d made the mistake. She clung to my body, unsure about going out again.
This time, I tried to encourage her.
“It’s your first big meet. You don’t have to be perfect. Just try your best. I’m proud of you.”
I’d like to say that did it, but it didn’t. A few minutes later her coach came over. gave her a hug and walked her back to the line.
Second dive, same result.
“Incorrect dive.”
This time she didn’t even try to mask her feelings. She ran to me after she got out of the pool.
“I’m done. I’m not doing any more.”
She had three more dives to complete. This time, it took daddy, mommy and coach (OK, and a promise of ice cream when the event was done) to get her back on the board.
I just reminded her that it was her first big meet. She’s young. Lots of other kids were also making the same mistakes.
“What matters is you just do the best you can do.”
Third dive. This time, the judges looked around at each other.
“Please,” I thought. “Scores.”
I was pretty sure she’d done the right dive, even if in the wrong position.
By the time my daughter got into my lap, her scores were read.
She’d done it.
After the last two dives were complete, she happily gathered her participation ribbon and new plastic sun glasses and came to give us a hug.
Different situations may just require different responses, I’ve learned.
On our way home, she announced, “I’m doing diving every season. Can I do an after-school program? Can I go to the Olympics?”
Ten years into this mommy thing and it’s always a challenge.

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