Oh, those skater girls. We've talked a lot about the "mean girls" and how sometimes they're actually mean, but sometimes it's just that focused intensity. When you talk to them they aren't mean at all.
Focus during practice isn't the only manifestation of this "skater attitude." These kids also have the ability to accept correction and criticism. And it's not just because they have a coach who isn't mean. I've seen kids put up with a level and style of criticism that I would not feel comfortable with, but the skaters, and their parents, will swear by the coach.
The "skater attitude" is all about compartmentalizing. People who are good at taking criticism understand that comments about skill or output is not the same thing as comments about "you." Skaters need to put the skating criticism where it belongs--with the skating. They understand the difference between "that axel was poorly done" and "you are a bad person."
Some coaches will overtly reinforce this by stating, for instance "I love how hard you're working today, but let's talk about the technical errors that are preventing success at this skill." But some coaches won't sugar coat at all-- "what's wrong with that axel today! Let's fix it!"
So how do you develop that skater attitude--the thick skin that lets you take the correction without ruining your day?
It isn't personal
Your private coach loves you. Your class coach doesn't care enough about you to mess with you. (Harsh but true at the most basic level.) Neither of these individuals will get any benefit from wrecking your self esteem. Criticism of skating is just that. Criticism of skating. Parents, if your child gets off the ice upset, don't immediately blame the coach. Find out why the child is upset; if she's angry at the coach for being critical, reinforce the coach by stating something along the lines of "oh, the coach criticized your [skill/work ethic/attitude]. Make it clear that the coach is focused on the skating, not on the person.
The coach's success is your success
A coach whose skaters fail or are miserable does not get students. The coach needs you way more than you need him. This is just another thing to remind yourself--the coach has no vested interest in criticizing you as a person.
Remember (better yet write down) exactly what the coach is saying, and then see if you can observe that in yourself when you're practicing on your own. (You are practicing on your own, right?) This will help you own the criticism, or better yet, fix the problem.
Observe the skaters with that thick skin--how do they react when the coach criticizes their skating? Do they argue? Make excuses? Disengage? Or do they listen, absorb, and utilize the criticism to make their skating better?
Some coaches are inappropriately critical
I know of coaches who are fine with the kids, but hideously critical of the parents. The kids pick up on this and it can destroy a coaching relationship. I've heard coaches tell kids that they are stupid because they aren't understanding a technique. I've heard coaches tell kids that they can't skate because they're fat (even to kids who are not in fact, fat). This is personal criticism and it is wrong. Abuse--physical and emotional--happens, and you need to be alert for it.
Day-to-day healthy criticism of skating is not abuse, and you need to be sensitive to the difference. You don't need to develop a thick skin. Just use the one you were born with.