When a child is not successful in school he or she makes personal judgments of their own capabilities. They do it quietly in their minds, behind their smiles. As a parent we can encourage, praise, explain or blame the educational institutions but none of this will drown out the self doubt and emotional pain of being at the bottom of their social intellectual pool.
Everyone wants to be viewed as smart—even a child.
My son was extremely creative and mechanically apt from very early in his life but he struggled with reading, writing and math in the progressive Blue Ribbon school he attended. Year after year his Star testing scores that map his ability against his peer group, showed him to be below average. Both my husband and I are teachers, have post graduate degrees and are considered advanced in our fields. So how was it that our son struggled so?
It was against my son’s wishes, but in his third grade year we enrolled him into a math tutoring program at Mathnasium, a local math workshop. He would attend hour long sessions three times a week. Mathnasium tested our son and created a program tailored to his abilities. Since the facility had kids ranging from as young as seven to as old as seventeen, he was able to see that tutoring was not for the stupid but for kids of all ages and abilities.
By that very next year my son had elevated all the way to the advanced math class! And to my surprise, his language arts scores all rose too. I was shocked. When I ask him what he was doing differently he replied, “Nothing.” So then I asked him why he thought his reading and writing grades improved. My son’s reply left me with an insight that I wish to share with you. He said, “I’m more confident now. I thought I was a little bit stupid before but now I know I am smart.”
The many times my husband and I told him he was smart and creative could not offset his impression of himself while he was struggling in school. Our children are their own people very early in life. We can’t make their struggles go away with kind words or even with all our love and encouragement—we have to find ways to help them solve their own problems by providing the right tools, keeping them on track then standing back to watch them shine.
My son has been on the honor roll for the past eight quarters and will finish this year with the same status because he believes he is smart.
Success starts small in the early years with report cards and social work groups. Success or failure becomes the fabric of who our children are. EVERY child deserves to feel smart. This year if your child is struggling…if your child feels a little bit stupid, I urge you to sacrifice and get them the help they need. It will change their destiny and the joy of watching your child soar is worth any sacrifice you may have to make.