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Question
Posted by: Henna | 2012/08/08

my child''s self-esteem vs my frustration

Doc, I was told you are wise, and thus hope you have some advice. :-)

I did very well at school decades ago, but my Gr 5 daughter is below average academically. I really try very very hard to be patient and not to ever let her feel bad about herself. However, I spill many a tear (alone, not in front of her) of frustration and disappointment, and of not knowing how to handle the situation. I sometimes simply cannot understand why she does not understand a certain math problem, or natural sciences fact, etc and I think I may be more impatient with her than I really intend to be. Sometimes she does know her work, but when it comes to exams she completely shuts down and forgets everything she knew at home. I do love my child with all my heart and so much like to get advice on how to handle her academically and how to handle my own disappointment.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

I don't know who told you I was wise, but obviously, they themselves are wise. Extraordinarily so !
It may well be that your child has different skills and abilities to yours, and by expecting her not only to excel, but to do so in the way you did, you may be placing unhelpful extra pressure on yourself and on her. being made to feel anxious herself, or even just having a very anxious mom, may significantly reduce a child's ability to handle their learning.
And of course wshe might also learn in ways different to the way you do ; and maybe your teaching methods don't match what her teachers at school do, which can confuse her.
That she under-performs when anxious in exams, suggests that her learning and remembering, and performing in that sort of task, is greatly reduced by stress and anxiety, as is often the case in even very able kids.
Have you had a relaxed chat with her teachers ? Maybe they have a different impression of her, and maybe their assessment of how she performs will be useful to you. I worry a bit when you speak of "handling her academically", which is usually seen as the teacher's task, while mom is often best used as a source of comfort, calm, and encouragement as such, rather than as an academic wrangler.
A child psychologist might be able to assess both of you usefully, and to give helpful advice in detail. A personal counsellor might help you to sort out your own expectations, why you seem to be feeling so disappointed about a nice child who is probably at least average in her schoolwork - what do you expect of her, and are you able to love and support and take joy in her, even if she doesn't turn out to be academically very able ? THink through - what are her other acomplishments and pleasant characteristics you can also feel proud of - how does she treat other people, animals, how does she manage household chores, hobbies, whatever else ?
Also, meanwhile, try to shift the emphasis. Instead of hovering anxiously and worrying about her every error, hesitation, or failure to understand things you already know well, try to catch her getting things right ! Try to spot and comment cheerfully on, the parts of her homework she is doing correctly and well, so as to improve her self-confidence, and convey the message that she is doing fine, and then she is better able to be encouraged to tackle the areas where she is having more troubles.
Work towards making her interactions with you, particularly about learning matters, pleasant and something she will look forward to, rather than, perhaps, freezing and expecting criticism, voiced or implied. pend pleasant time with her on other things - hobbies, mutual interests, and especially on whatever are her own interests.
Knowing ehr interests better, one can use them to tie in to math and science princip[les that turn up in her homework, to help her understand them.

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3
Our users say:
Posted by: J. | 2012/08/13

This has happened to me and like you, it has nothing to do with your lack of love, but more about BECAUSE you love her, you want her to succeed. Which was in my case too.

My daughter is in grade 3. She has been classified as below average, but I dont think of her that way. I think of her as a slow starter. While her other friends are usually up and running in the first semester, she hits her stride in about the third semester. I have learnt to cope with teachers that expect all children to be naturally bright and do not stress anymore when the first term is always lower than the rest. I come to expect it, at meetings, I reassure the teacher that she will catch up, she always do.

I used to be very, very strict. First time mommy, and all that. I used to do drill exercises, try and help her by explaining etc. About two years ago, a close family friend of mine''s son tried to commit suicide because he failed matric. I got such a shock. That this boy thought he was no worth as a human being because he couldnt do math, made me so incredibly sad. It changed ME. I am always going to want my daughter to succeed, but succeed is a broad term ..... succeed as a person, succeed in a profession, there is many components. I refuse to simply classify her by what her math points are. She is so much more.

School work has become fun. I still do the drills, because I believe in the repition and more importantly, she needs it. But if she cant do it, we breeze over them and try again tomorrow. If she gets it right, I constantly tell her how good she is doing, how bright she is, how excercise and perseverance trumps natural intelligence any day. I say it over and over again, we high five and device rewards, all to make it fun. The other day, her teacher demoted her to a slower reading group, together with 5 other children. The one mother phoned me and told me that her little girl has been crying for a week, and did I know that my daughter was also demoted. I said I did. She said that her girl told her that my daughter told her: mommy loves me no matter what. I nearly cried, the message has gotten through to her ........ and funny enough, she likes doing homework these days. She is doing better in class (still slower, but less pronounced), the exam anxiety is over (she used to be affraid to bring me her books, she now has no problem, even if alot is still wrong). I see these things as positive signs.

Dont let anyone tell you that you are a bad mother. I got angry too and I love my daughter more than life itself. I just wanted her to get somewhere in life, that is why I tried so hard. I realised that she will get somewhere, she will get where she needs to be in her own time ...... I am just going to help her be the best SHE can be, and not what I want her to be.

Hope this helps,
J.

Reply to J.
Posted by: Lils | 2012/08/08

Dear Henna, maybe you should stop worrying about your own disappointment and start focusing on her strengths. Children can sense our feelings towards them and by bugging her you''re only confusing her more and making her feel inadequate. Let the child be - she will learn in her own time and if there was really a problem the school would have notified you by now. Remember, we cannot search for our own accomplishments in our children ...

Reply to Lils
Posted by: cybershrink | 2012/08/08

I don't know who told you I was wise, but obviously, they themselves are wise. Extraordinarily so !
It may well be that your child has different skills and abilities to yours, and by expecting her not only to excel, but to do so in the way you did, you may be placing unhelpful extra pressure on yourself and on her. being made to feel anxious herself, or even just having a very anxious mom, may significantly reduce a child's ability to handle their learning.
And of course wshe might also learn in ways different to the way you do ; and maybe your teaching methods don't match what her teachers at school do, which can confuse her.
That she under-performs when anxious in exams, suggests that her learning and remembering, and performing in that sort of task, is greatly reduced by stress and anxiety, as is often the case in even very able kids.
Have you had a relaxed chat with her teachers ? Maybe they have a different impression of her, and maybe their assessment of how she performs will be useful to you. I worry a bit when you speak of "handling her academically", which is usually seen as the teacher's task, while mom is often best used as a source of comfort, calm, and encouragement as such, rather than as an academic wrangler.
A child psychologist might be able to assess both of you usefully, and to give helpful advice in detail. A personal counsellor might help you to sort out your own expectations, why you seem to be feeling so disappointed about a nice child who is probably at least average in her schoolwork - what do you expect of her, and are you able to love and support and take joy in her, even if she doesn't turn out to be academically very able ? THink through - what are her other acomplishments and pleasant characteristics you can also feel proud of - how does she treat other people, animals, how does she manage household chores, hobbies, whatever else ?
Also, meanwhile, try to shift the emphasis. Instead of hovering anxiously and worrying about her every error, hesitation, or failure to understand things you already know well, try to catch her getting things right ! Try to spot and comment cheerfully on, the parts of her homework she is doing correctly and well, so as to improve her self-confidence, and convey the message that she is doing fine, and then she is better able to be encouraged to tackle the areas where she is having more troubles.
Work towards making her interactions with you, particularly about learning matters, pleasant and something she will look forward to, rather than, perhaps, freezing and expecting criticism, voiced or implied. pend pleasant time with her on other things - hobbies, mutual interests, and especially on whatever are her own interests.
Knowing ehr interests better, one can use them to tie in to math and science princip[les that turn up in her homework, to help her understand them.

Reply to cybershrink

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