How to help your Discouraged Elementary Student Gain Confidence

There is nothing that makes a parent more proud than the smile and excitement on a child’s face as he or she attends school for the first time.  That first day is marvelous.  Oh, from time to time there is some trepidation.  Some youngsters are a little nervous or a little anxious, but for the most part they are excited and are ready to begin their education career.

This excitement usually lasts for the first three to five years, then in many cases the excitement dies away and a dread of school begins.  It becomes more and more difficult to get the child up in the morning and ready to go to school.  It is even more difficult to get the student excited about learning.

What happened?  What occurred that made this change?

There are a variety of factors that might lead to this change in attitude toward school.  Let’s focus on only one discouragement.  As the child progresses through each grade level the subject matter becomes more and more difficult and the expectations of teachers and parents increases.  Children begin to feel the pressure.  Most of the child’s social skills have been developed and the foundation for learning has been laid.  He or she no longer learns to read, but rather reads to learn.  Math turns out to be more than two plus two and geography now encompasses more than just the local neighborhood and our home town.  Students are expected to learn.

As a result of this change in perception of expectations (the expectations have always been there on the part of teachers and parents), students become discouraged.  Learning is no longer fun for them; it has turned into work.  The teacher is no longer someone that we can talk to and share stories with; the teacher now expects us to perform and to perform well on tests and on various assignments.  We don’t sing the alphabet song in class anymore and we don’t have as much physical movement in the classroom as we once did.  Story time is over and we now write as much as we read.  Things have changed.

School is not as much fun as it was before.  Students now see the importance of grades and in many instances his or her grades may not be as high as friends and classmates.  Competition for highest grades and honors begins and then continues through high school.  Children begin to feel discouraged when they don’t see themselves doing as well as their peers.  As a result, the student doesn’t have the enthusiasm to study and do his or her best and the grades suffer and the problem of a lack of confidence perpetuates itself.

It is not the end of the world, though, and it is not the end of the child’s education.  If anything, it is the beginning.  It is a wonderful time and opportunity for teachers and parents to join together and to redirect the student’s energies and passions into learning.  It is an excellent time to build the student’s confidence in self, in the school, and in the support system at home.

As a parent, it is imperative that you remain positive about your child’s education.  Continue to show an interest in what goes on at school, no matter what grade your child is in.  This can be difficult when there are multiple school age children in the home, but it can be done and it is well worth it.  Continue to put samples of work up for display.  It doesn’t have to be on the refrigerator, but in a special place where the child knows that it can be seen you, the parents, on a daily basis.

Ask questions about what is being studied in class, and don’t settle for the standard answer of “nothing”.  Probe a little bit.  Find out what is really being covered.  Relate whatever it is to your personal experiences if you can.  If you don’t have any personal experiences in the area being covered, use that to your advantage.  Tell your child that you have not had the opportunity to study and experience what he or she is able to and ask to join in the study efforts.  Let your child teach you; that is a wonderful way to learn.

Extend the classroom experience for your child.  If geometry is the subject matter, go to a game room and play a game of pool.  Pool (billiards) is a game of angles.  Use geometric terms when playing the game.  Use a bike ride to teach and learn about friction and the use of energy. 

These methods work, because in the lower grades in our public education system we use games, movement, and music to teach.  Then, as the child gets older, we stop using these methods and the thrill of learning diminishes.  It can be rekindled, but it will take a little effort. 

Help your child to gain his or her confidence with continued praise and participation in the educational process.  Always show pride in the work that your child has done, no matter what the grade received; point out, too, that there is always room for improvement.

Rebuild your child’s confidence by showing him or her that you have confidence in his or her abilities.