How Academic Performance Affects Children’s Confidence

Confidence. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Confidence. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Part of raising independent, self-supporting children is making sure they have the confidence to thrive on their own, know who to count on and ask for help when needed. Alexandra Berube shares some keen insights about how education influences student self-esteem starting with kindergarten in her guest post. Well said Alexandra.


In my years as an educator, I have commonly found that students at all ages are good at hiding what they don’t know. It’s a basic human emotion to want to fit in with your peers and not let anyone see that you’re falling behind. I remember times myself in middle school and high school when I was too embarrassed to ask a question in front of the class and would just plod along, hoping to figure out the concepts on my own at some point. I remember in particular that I didn’t understand most of what was going on in my Pre-Calculus class, and I’m sure if you asked many adults, they would tell you the same; everyone remembers some class that completely baffled them, but their pride kept them from asking for help.

What affected me the most was my work with kindergarteners, because there is such a large range between skill levels at that age. Some students come in reading chapter books fluently, and some come in without knowing all of their letters. The ones that are behind immediately see what their peers can do that they can’t, and it makes them become more quiet and isolated. They often find opportunities to hide in the crowd so that no one can see their weaknesses. It is so sad and troubling as an educator to see the confidence of a child at such a young age already start down the path of self-doubt.

When I work with middle-schoolers, they know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and they know what they are “bad at.” There is no reason that an eleven-year-old should already have decided that they are bad at an academic subject. Of course there will always be concepts that are more difficult than others in each subject area, but at some point children internalize that they are just not going to succeed in certain areas, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They learn to compensate for their weaknesses by focusing on their strengths, but as a result, their weaknesses grow and grow from underuse. How many adults do you know that say they are terrible at writing, or terrible at spelling, or terrible at math? Ask any of these adults when they decided these facts about themselves, and I’m sure many of them will tell you that those roots lie very deep in their educational history.

It is so important to encourage children at every single stage of development that no matter how difficult a task or concept might appear to be, they can master it. Yes, some children will develop to be brilliant mathematicians, and some will demonstrate a natural talent for expressive writing, but there is no reason for any child to grow up feeling like they are impeded in some way, and that they can never move past this break in confidence to be successful in their future.


Alexandra Berube started Boston Tutoring Services, LLC., in January, 2010, while teaching her second year of Kindergarten in a small, inclusive classroom. Her background experience in test preparation, including ISEE/SSAT/ACT/SAT, led her to focus on these services in addition to academic subject tutoring. Personal attention and individualized instruction are the cornerstone of Boston Tutoring Services, and she seeks to guide and fully support every family through the process of working with her tutors. She only hires the highest quality tutors with educational degrees, teacher certification, and a superior level of expertise in test preparation. As a former teacher herself, with an M.Ed. from Lesley University, she believes that having a personal connection with parents is crucial to a child’s success, and understanding the value of an individualized approach makes all the difference.

Wednesday’s Parent: Self-esteem, college-bound style


Raise your hand if you want to feel good about yourself. My hand is held high and I bet yours is, too. We can also expect a similar response from our children. A healthy dose of self-esteem is what we all want.

So what exactly is self-esteem?

I looked up the definition in a pocketbook I rescued from my daughter’s give-away pile. I also researched the term online (which she does and is probably why she tossed the book in the first place). I found these adjectives: self-assurance, self-confidence, self-respect, and self-value.

PsychCentral explains there are two kinds of self-esteem:

1. Global self-esteem: about who we are

2. Situational self-esteem: about what we do

The former is constant and the latter “fluctuates, depending on circumstances, roles, and events. Situational self-esteem can be high at one moment (e.g., at work) and low the next (e.g., at home).”

Why is self-esteem so important?

Psychology Today says it best,

Possessing little self-regard can lead people to become depressed, to fall short of their potential, or to tolerate abusive situations and relationships. Too much self-love, on the other hand, results in an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures. (It can also be a sign of clinical narcissism.)

How can the college process affect self-esteem?

Too much or too little self-esteem can negatively impact your and your child’s future success. We all have seen examples of self-esteem gone wrong. For the college-bound, self-esteem issues can lead to costly mistakes. Unrealistic college choices and ill-fitting major picks can result in a huge waste of time and money.

From start to finish, the college process can influence self-esteem. The length of a college-bound to-do list may be intimidating to the point of doubting self-confidence to get it all done. Checking a college’s admission requirements and chances for admission may cause a reevaluation of self-assurance. Receiving a rejection letter can be ego crushing and influence self-value. Getting an offer of admission can be ego boosting but doing poorly after enrollment can be devastating to self-respect.

How can parents help their children develop healthy self-esteem?

Here are five fast ways to build self-esteem, college-bound style:

Be objective Your child has many abilities, skills and talents so help him develop those he is good at and enjoys. Listen to what he says and watch what he does. You can provide suggestions and encouragement but ultimately, it’s his resume colleges and employers will review to determine “a good fit.”

Be realistic Don’t encourage attainment of goals your child steadily refuses are not her own. This includes urging colleges where admission requirements don’t match or careers don’t appeal to your child’s interests, accomplishments and talents.

Be genuine Give meaningful compliments when appropriate but don’t exaggerate. Teens can see through false praise which can backfire especially if other authority sources such as his teachers, who will be writing teacher recommendation letters for college, don’t similarly react.

Be focused Keep in mind that you and your offspring want the same thing: for your student to thrive and succeed. Give her the tools needed to be independent, like values and decision-making skills. Then allow her to practice before she is away at college.

Be supportive Rejection is always hard to take but it is common in the college process. Colleges do not admit all qualified applicants if they have more applying than there are spots in the classroom. That’s why the college list is so important. It should consist of 6-8 colleges any one of which your child will be happy to attend. Turn lemons into lemonade and celebrate accomplishments.

The above are my 5 ways for developing healthy self-esteem, college-bound style. Now take a look at Suzanne’s 8 Tips for building self-esteem.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

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