It's normal for kids at this age to measure themselves against their teammates and opponents. But because of age cutoffs and mixed-age divisions, kids often compete against others who are nearly two years older, and that can mean significant height, weight, and skill differences. Unfortunately, when 7-year-olds realize that they're not as good as their 9-year-old teammates, they may get down on themselves and want to give up. "Everything can change once kids hit puberty," Dr. Gould explains. "Some kids improve, others will get worse, and there's no way to predict how it will turn out." Remind your child to focus only on her own performance and not on other kids'. If she plays an individual sport, encourage her to log her times and scores, so she becomes accountable for her progress throughout the season. But also help her learn to handle errors when they do occur in order to avoid a meltdown mid-competition. Consider developing a "mistake ritual" to help her move on after a blunder. "Raise your hand, make a fist and then bring it down, as though you're flushing a toilet -- or flushing away the mistake," suggests Syer. Tell your child that nobody's perfect, everybody makes mistakes (especially while learning new skills), and you're proud of her for doing her best.
Six Warning Signs of Burnout
With weeknight practices and weekend games, is your child getting pushed to the brink?
- She doesn't talk about the sport anymore.
- He makes excuses to skip practice.
- She shows no excitement before competition.
- He seems tired all the time and isn't sleeping well.
- She shows signs of depression -- loss of appetite, nausea, and headaches.
- He avoids team activities away from the field.
Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Parents magazine.