Wow. I have never related more to a topic that we have covered! Winging it? That’s basically my entire job. I work for a startup, and I manage an event space that is still being built out. I spend the majority of my time winging it. It’s not because I don’t care; it’s actually the opposite. I care so much about other people’s opinions of me that I refuse to ask for help or accept defeat before I have tried every other option. Does this sound familiar?
Your child might be experiencing the same situation. I’m not necessarily talking about young children, but if you have a teenager, you might notice this behavior in them. There’s a huge desire to impress their peers, their teachers, and then you (often in that order, unfortunately). There’s a couple of ways this can manifest. It might be like what I mentioned above. They might try alternative options, some better than others, when they can’t immediately solve a problem. But in situations where they can’t hide their shortcomings, such as competitive activities, they might become a sore loser.
When backed into a corner and exposed for winging it, gifted students often get defensive. If they lost a competition, what they vocalize is that the judges were unfair or there were some other circumstances that were out of their control that are the real reason for their failure. This isn’t a healthy mindset, and it trains them to blame their problems on other people.
As parents, coping with this scenario is a tightrope act. While you don’t want to encourage this behavior, you also want to support and build up your child’s self-esteem. While I don’t think you need to point out all of his faults and convince him it’s his fault he lost, you can suggest activities that would increase his chances of winning next time he can compete. For example, if your child is competing in speech and debate and he doesn’t place with his piece, rather than entertaining conversations about the judges being unfair, tell your child you would be happy to practice with him and work on memorization before the next competition. This strategy doesn’t place blame on your child, but it also doesn’t allow him to dwell on excuses.
Make sure you are being vigilant regarding this behavior. Cutting it out early will help your child grow into a mature and successful adult. I have mostly adjusted to my own issues, but I catch myself trying to pin blame on someone or something else because it kills me to be seen as wrong or incapable. The more you can correct this behavior early, the more well-adjusted your child will be in his adult life.