What To Do When Your Child Gets Stuck In I Can't
In last weeks post I spoke about how to talk to your child so you can get an understanding of what their mind chatter is like, if you notice they are down and not their usual self.
This same noticing is valuable when you are watching them or listening to them after attempting a new skill. Remember, I don’t like using the word “trying” as that implies that you can’t do something.
Some Skills Come Naturally
Everyone has an ability to learn new skills. For some that skill will come easily as if they are a natural at it. And for others it will not be so natural.
You’ll have heard me talk about picking up a skill in terms of natural instinct or ability before, and how it’s the mind or mindset that gets in the way.
What is happening when your child gets stuck in “I can’t” is their mind is telling them they aren’t able to do what they are doing.
Two Different Aspects of I Cant
There are a couple of different aspects of this self-talk.
The first is to do with expectations. It may be that the child wanted to pick up this new skill easily and that hasn’t happened. They might struggle to perform the task and not know how to change that, for example.
They set unrealistic expectations for themselves, and notice I said “for themselves,” these don’t have to have come from you or their coach.
The opportunity here is to converse in order to understand what the expectations they set are. You will quickly hear that they are disheartened because they didn’t meet those expectations. You can then have the conversation about whether their expectations were real or not.
Remember to talk about how a lot of the NHL hockey players spend thousands of hours mastering something they do. They are always learning and finding new ways of doing things.
Having this conversation, may tip the scale on the chatter saying they can’t.
The second aspect relates to self-confidence, or perhaps more truly ‘self-doubt.’
Often a skill might seem a little hard and your child can’t see themselves easily doing that skill. Their confidence drops, the mind chatter starts, and they get themselves into the space of believing they are unable to pick up the skill, let alone be good at it.
Confidence Is Key
Confidence is a really interesting concept.
The definition of confidence is
The feeling or belief that one can rely on something or someone; firm trust.
A feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s own appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.
So what you notice when your child gets into this “I can’t” space is that they no longer believe in themselves or their ability to learn or perform the skill.
More negative self-talk. And yet, where is the proof? Honestly, where have you or they seen that they can’t master the skill? I’m guessing there is none, it’s just their self-talk not trusting in their own ability to learn the skill.
Oh, and learn it to the level they are expecting, going back to my earlier point.
The idea here then is to talk to them about their own proof that they can’t master the skill they are practicing. They will understand what you are talking about, and it is simply a matter of having them notice that their mindset is stopping them from even going after learning the skill to the level they want.
No Criticism Necessary
You will notice that when I talk to you about having conversations with your child there is no judgement at all in them. It is not up to you to decide if they will master the skill or not. It is also not up to you to judge whether they are good at it, or not.
That is entirely up to your child. They don’t need a parent criticizing them any more than they are themselves in this head space.
Be supportive and allow your child to learn for themselves if they are able to master the skill, or not.
Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Karen coaches, players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. And their parents to support their child in the best possible way. Life playing hockey should be fun. Mindset matters. Mental health matters. Hockey should be fun, not emotionally overloading.