BY DR. RAYMOND J. HUNTINGTON//SPECIAL FOR THE AJT//
If your child has experienced any difficulty in school, then you likely know the challenge of keeping things positive amid poor grades and dwindling self-esteem well.
School can be the catalyst for any number of anxieties, even for the student who sails through classes seemingly with ease. However, for the student who frequently comes upon academic road blocks, the school experience can instigate negativity, fear and other problems.
The power of positive thinking is undeniable, and learning to embrace optimism can have an enormous impact on your child’s emotional and physical well-being.
Here are several ways parents can encourage their child to adopt a positive attitude about school, even when it isn’t all easy:
- Take notice of your child’s achievements and strengths. If your child is struggling in one subject, he or she may feel badly about school overall — and that negativity can quickly build upon itself. Make sure you take note of the small successes, such as an improved grade or a sincere effort on studying for a test. Point out traits that you admire or respect in your child, not just those you wish he or she would change.
- Teach your child that failure is a part of learning. Your child needs to know that everyone messes up sometimes, and doing so yields valuable lessons. Let your child know that you support him or her no matter what, and that you are there to help him or her when things are difficult. Also remind your child that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and apply that new knowledge in future situations.
- Help your child keep things in perspective. It is easy for a child who is struggling with one or more subjects to feel badly about him or herself. However, don’t let your child blow problems out of proportion. An issue he or she is dealing with today may be solved a year from now. A poor test score or even a slew of them in a row is not going to ruin your child’s life, and together, you can stop small problems from growing into big ones.
- Look forward, not backward. If your child brings home a poor report card or grade, it’s natural for you to want to dissect what happened, and even to point the finger at your child’s failures. Did your child not study enough? Is he or she not paying attention in class? While reflection is productive, dwelling on mistakes is not. In such a situation, have an open conversation with your child about how to move forward and develop an action plan to overcome problems.
- Teach your child to problem solve. Nobody lives a problem-free life. Your child will be happier and more independent if he or she knows how to address and solve problems effectively. Give your child the opportunity to make decisions at home. Encourage him or her to ask questions and be curious, as thinking critically is one of the components of good problem-solving ability. Teach him or her that sometimes, one’s first attempt at solving a problem isn’t successful. Good problem-solvers keep trying new solutions until they find one that works.
Optimistic thinking can make all the difference in a child’s school experience, giving him or her the energy and courage to face school problems head on. Have a positive attitude about school problems, and encourage your child to do the same. With confidence and a can-do demeanor, your child will be able to overcome any issue he or she encounters in school as well as life in general.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 35 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800 CAN LEARN.
Find suggestions for helping your student build confidence at huntingtonhelps.com/resources/p-confident/