Finding your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses can probably be considered a natural part of growing up, of maturing. An employer, for example, might highly regard your warm and caring personality, while another might regard your ability to measure and cut a piece of wood far more favourably. Unfortunately, many children who feel inadequate or who suffer from a low sense of self-worth do so due to the mistakes they make at school or home. Their difficulties and failures continually act as a stumbling block to reaching their true potential. When schools and parents either fail to address a youngster’s lack of confidence or reinforce their negative view of themselves, then society as a whole is in real trouble.
A number of parents come to the Extraordinary Kids tutoring centre in Browns Bay hoping to raise their child’s confidence with Mathematics and English. There’s much evidence in the testimonials of parents that tutoring provides close support, encouragement and guidance to young people that can be a game changer. A student’s rank or placing on class tests can change dramatically once the subject they struggle with is demystified by a tutor who takes the time to explain, and provides the necessary practice or drills to develop skills and insight.
Confidence is not something magically present like a genetic inheritance. Rather it is more like a sapling, planted with care and then nurtured through the seasons and stages of growth. Albert Einstein famously referred to the value of making mistakes and trying new things. Clearly the mistakes that children make in the process of learning something new should never define their future, or limit their enjoyment of life or potential to be successful.
It is right to consider why children lack confidence. Many parents blame teachers, the curriculum or the school in which their child is enrolled. Others have for years questioned the need for rigorous assessments and reporting mechanisms in educational settings that can undermine student achievement. However, there is a wide range of factors that can dampen learner confidence including such things as bullying or judgmental parents and peers. One-upmanship in schools, like sibling rivalry, is also likely to be toxic. Intense competition can motivate some students, but for others it only amplifies their sense of defeat.
Playing the blame game will not address the immediate suffering your child is experiencing each day they are learning. Assigning blame is not likely to alter your child’s mindset or give them the satisfaction and reward that comes from overcoming whatever barriers held them back.
At home parents can give their children the time and space they need to learn. It has to be realised that no two children learn at the same speed, and that learning is not always easy. While parents celebrate learning milestones like speaking and walking, there is not the same joy in setbacks, or delayed development. Most people understand that during the last two years of the Covid pandemic, for example, schooling has greatly suffered. Children have forgotten some of the things like times tables they may have previously been drilled in. We know that stress and psychological pressures have had an impact on us all, and for children no less.
There are parents who are not themselves confident in their role as mentors for their children, who feel out of their depth when it comes to the rudiments of teaching mathematics, phonics or reading. Tutoring centres can help, and in no way mean that children become dependent on the extra assistance given. Nevertheless, parents who listen to their children, who offer helpful advice and encouragement are on the right track. Ultimately, neither children nor adults can run away from their responsibilities, or avoid tackling the difficult things that are a part of life. There is a place for conversations at home about hurtful and destructive language, a place for setting some ground rules. There is no place for put-downs and insults. It is key for adults and siblings to consistently recognise and constructively affirm a youngster’s strengths and their achievements.