25 July 2016

What's your child's biggest classroom fear?

Written by 
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Email

It's the holidays - at last! An opportunity to look forward to new adventures, and forget past problems. 

Except our children don't dump those classroom worries in their school bag for the summer. They carry them around... 

And the number one classroom fear children have? A fear of failure. Have you ever stopped to think what psychological impact this might have?

After all, children desperately want to make you proud; they want their peers to accept them. They want to feel good about themselves. They want their teachers and parents to notice that they tried so hard, even though low marks don't reflect that.

Yet struggling in a SATs exam, doing poorly in a weekly test, failing an end of term GCSE mock exam, or getting questions wrong which they thought were right, can lead to them - over time - to feeling a failure.

It's official ... I'm rubbish

Just one single sentence in their 'end of term' report is all it takes. Though full of positives, your child will seize on phrases spelling out how they have not measured up. That they've not achieved the 'expected' learning outcome - despite all their effort, or if that they've still not moved up a set alongside their friends.

Instead your child will read this as a sign that they're 'rubbish' - whether at Maths, English, Science, or another subject.

The problem is that worries like these play on the mind. They knock us inside. Eventually, if we think we are rubbish at something, we start believing it. And in some cases, we even hate ourselves for it. That's the real worry...

Classroom shame doesn't stay there

If you've EVER heard your child denigrate themselves, you'll know it's devastating. The child you love is struggling before you, before they've even got going in life. 

Yet the signs have been there all year... The endless homework battles, or them saying they don't need your help while you watch them struggle like mad by themselves. Perhaps they've been angry or aggressive at home.. 

The truth is: children often mask how they really feel as they can't verbalise it so well. They remember that time when they felt useless compared to their peers, or when a teacher wrote 'try harder' when they'd tried their best.  

Children sqirm with shame at failing, and then get stuck there unable to move out of the hole they feel trapped in.

What can you do to help?

Fight feelings of failure head on

1. Promote a positive mindset

Always praise effort to balance out perceived failure. That's why it can help to share with children that you used to find specific subjects hard at school. Empathy is a powerful antidote to shame. 

Knowing that everyone struggles at something in life can help put their experience into perspective, and help them see it more positively. 

2. Be proud to be human

Perfection is sometimes possible, but most of the time it's not. If we can help our children to accept that failing is part of growing up, then we'll do a good job. 

3. Teach resilience

The only way to handle falling off a bike is to get up and on it again. A bad test mark isn't the end of the world. A lower than expected exam grade isn't written in stone. These marks and grades are transient during the learning process. 

The trick is to teach our children that nothing in life is truly a 'fail' if you learn from it.

Summer tuition to get back on track

Maybe your child is in year 10, and performed badly in their 'end of term' exams? With just two official terms left - give or take a few weeks in May '17 - our teeangers will already be full of worries about how they'll catch up next year.

A spell of tuition over the summer could help them find their way forward, instead of feeling stuck in the past. Especially helpful too if your child is sitting an entrance exam soon or starting a new year at school - and you're worried they are not ready.

As parents tell us every year, it's amazing the difference tuition can make when the pressure of school is off. As one of our tutee's parents shared last summer:

'Thank you for the excellent English tuition for our 13 year old son James this summer. In his words, the tutor was really calm, explained things clearly and gave him so much help for next year. His confidence has hugely improved from just a couple of months ago. Thank you for everything.'

With Maths, Science and English tutors across the Weybridge area, and now English and KS2 teachers available in the Chichester district, do drop us an email to see how we can help. 


Last modified on 20 February 2017
Nikki de Villiers

Nikki de Villiers - Lemon Tree senior tutor, owner and English/SEN specialist. For the best private tuition in Surrey and West Sussex...

Lemmy's Latest