Quick Tip: “I just can’t do it.”

Your child is in the driveway practicing lay-ups, but very few balls make it into the hoop.  As the time ticks by you start to see the look of defeat on her face.  Eventually, she trudges back into the house saying, “I just can’t do it.”

What can you do?  Help her practice smarter, not just harder, with these 3 tips…  

#1) Help her break the task down into Small Steps

It could be that your child doesn’t have some of the prerequisite skills she needs to master the skill she is currently working on.  Have her think through the smaller skills she needs to master before working on the current skill.  Mastery happens when we practice deliberately at tasks that are slightly outside our current ability.  Help her make sure she is working on a skill that offers the appropriate level of challenge.  

#2) Prompt her to reflect on her try and then tweak what she is doing

We don’t improve at a task simply by trying over and over again.  We have to reflect on our attempts and make small changes until we reach the desired result.  After an attempt, have her reflect on exactly what she did, what the result was, and a small tweak she could make to move her closer to the desired result.  For physical activities, use video.  For academics, use a study journal.

#3) Help her Seek advice

If she’s tried tips #1 and #2, and still isn’t improving, it might be time to find a coach, teacher, or mentor with more experience who could provide specific feedback.  Practice is most productive when we have immediate feedback followed by a new attempt incorporating that feedback.  

Your family can use these tips for a variety of activities, from sports to arts to academics.  If you want to learn more about practice habits that lead to expertise, we recommend checking out Anders Ericsson’s work around deliberate practice.

Have fun moving from “I just can’t” to “I just did!”

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