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I Give Up!

posted Apr 20, 2016, 1:03 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Apr 20, 2016, 1:44 AM ]

Today I got my daughter a badminton racquet set. She had been playing with a similar set in her grandparent's house.

My father-in-law got her the set a few months ago. Every weekend, when she visited my in laws, he would patiently throw the shuttle to her over and over again and she would try to hit it. When they started, she could not hit it at all. But over the last few months she has made progress. She can now return it about half the times.

Last week, he threw the shuttle towards her, and she hit it back and then he returned the shot and she returned it again! This was a major achievement for her. A 4 shot rally! Dada (grandpa) was very pleased and told us all about it, with great pomp and my daughter glowed with pride. She told us about it again and again. Since she was showing such keen interest in badminton, I figured it was time to get her a set that she could use at home. This way she would be able to play all week instead of just the weekends.

Today she was so excited when she came home from school, to find a new badminton set. She eagerly opened the packaging. She wanted me to throw the shuttle to her, but I had to take care of her little sister. So I showed her a way that would allow her to practice by herself. I was looking forward to her telling me how thrilled she was to have a set at home to play with, but to my astonishment she came crying to me. “I cant get more than one hit. It is not working.” She was sulking.

“Try some more baby. It will work, if you try for a while.”

She half heartedly tries another couple of times and reports that it is not working, and that she does not want to play any more. She sets her racquet and shuttle down and sits next to them and sulks.

I go up to her, cuddle her and say, “You can't give up so easily baby. It takes a long time to become good at something. That takes practice. When you started trying to read half a year ago, you could not read a single word correctly. But now you can read about 15 words all on your own. But you only got here, because you did not give up then.”

“But I did get the shots when I played with Dada, and I can't get them now. I don't like that.”

Ah! So the problem was not about learning being a slow process, but about not being as good as she thought she was. We had all over dramatized her small success and now that she could not live up to the image we had created, she felt disappointed.

I thought that if she saw me having fun playing with the racquet and shuttle, she would be reminded of why she liked this in the first place, and try again. So I played on my own for a few minutes. She counted that I managed to hit the shuttle 7 times before it fell, the last time I tried. She got madder than ever, “I don't like that you hit it more times than me. I want to be better than you.”

“You'll get there if you try. Did you notice that the first two times I tried, I got only 2 hits. I was out of practice. It took me a few attempts to get to 7. You are also going to have to keep trying. Besides, isn't it a fun thing to do?”

“It is only fun if I get many hits. Otherwise it is not fun.” More sobbing.

“Should I throw the shuttle to you like Dada does?”


But she was so grumpy that she missed even those shots, causing her to cry in anger.

I was at a loss. May be I should just let it be. But then I realized that I too would be giving up, just like her. How could I give up, if I wanted her to persist? So I decided to call in the big guns for some expert advice. I went to my husband.

He suggested I boost her confidence by tossing the shuttle to her in such a way, that she could not miss.

“But isn't a distorted version of reality, what got us here in the first place?" I asked. We praised her so much, she got the idea that she can do a lot more than she really can. And now that she can't live up to that idea, she is devastated.”

“That is true. But she is never going to play again, unless she likes the game. And she is not going to like it, unless she has a little success. So let her have a little success. But don't over do it and slowly make it harder for her.”

It worked! First, I changed the subject to take her mind off badminton. Then a little later, it took some persuading to get her to pick up the racquet again, but when she got the first shot (I made sure she did by aiming the shuttle straight at her racquet), she wanted to go again. I repeated this a few times. Then when she did not get the 5th shot, I said “Everyone misses sometimes.” So she tried again and got it. I kept giving her easy shots interspersed with slightly harder ones increasing the frequency of the harder ones very slowly, and slowly she was getting the slightly harder ones too. It went on till I got tired. I doubt the little ones ever get tired when they are enjoying themselves. She played by herself for a while longer.

In the evening I asked her if she wanted to try her luck at an actual badminton court. I took her to the sketchy badminton court in the housing society. She was thrilled, enthusiastic, trying hard and getting better. We managed one more 4 shot rally! I also kept slipping in a few simple shots if she started to show signs of getting discouraged at any time, because she missed a few in continuation.

Every aspect of parenting seems to be a balancing act. Too many praises can be just as troublesome as too few. By the time they are off to college, I think I'll be an expert at tight rope walking, at least metaphorically

I am glad, though, that I did not give up at the crucial moment, and I got the help I needed when I could not manage by myself. I hope that is what my daughter learns to do too.