How can I support my discouraged child?

November 5, 2021

If you can relate to any of these FAQs, you might be feeling helpless, worried, or stuck. It’s not easy for you to see your child beat themselves up over a ‘bad’ grade, or to watch their self-esteem take a hit when all you want for them is to do their best.

You are not alone! In this blog post, we’ll review 3 important pointers for how to talk to your child when they feel disappointed with their results.

Tip 1: Address your child’s feelings, not their grades

When your child talks about their results, you may react instinctively by trying to change their perspective or cheer them up. This is what addressing their results sounds like: 

⛔️ “90/100 is very good! Many people will be happy just to get 80!”

⛔️ “Don’t worry about Paper 2. Your Paper 1 can always pull you up.”

⛔️ “You’re usually very smart! Just do your corrections and you can get full marks next time.”

⛔️ “Let’s look on the bright side. Be thankful for the questions you got right, instead of complaining about what you got wrong.”

In the examples listed above, you’re trying to use “logic” to fight your child’s “logic”, without showing empathy towards how they feel. Instead of pausing to see your child’s perspective, you were trying to change it immediately. This could make your child feel alone, humiliated, or frustrated that you don’t understand their disappointment.

Here’s what you can say instead, in order to validate the feelings beneath your child’s words: 

✅ “I’m guessing you might feel disappointed and upset.”

✅ “It’s normal to feel frustrated when your results don’t seem to match your efforts.”

✅ “It’s okay to cry and feel sad. I’m here to listen!”

✅ “It sounds like you felt embarrassed when your results came back, is that right?” 

Give names to the emotions that lie beneath the surface, and allow your child some space to feel that disappointment, anger, or stress. This is the very first step to open up a door to further conversation.

Tip 2: Highlight the efforts they put in and how they have grown

Here, we’re borrowing from one of our very own social media posts to demonstrate how this is done: 

Did you know that “resilience” is not a matter of sheer willpower and determination? It’s not about trying harder to stand up after falling down, or holding your tears back when you experience failure. 

Rather, resilience is a future orientation: a mindset that prizes continual growth, and that experiences each setback as just one stepping stone on a longer journey. Your words have the power to orient your child’s gaze from their past to their potential

If you want to show your child that grades aren’t everything, you need to walk the talk! Here’s a mini-challenge for you: have a 5-minute conversation with your child about how much they have grown without making reference to any result or score. Instead, base the conversation on their efforts and confidence. 

Tip 3: When your child is ready, ask about their hopes & fears

Children who pressurise themselves with high expectations may be too used to having their dreams trivialised by caring adults who just want to protect their feelings. They might grow afraid to express their wildest wishes and most daring dreams because they don’t want to get “shot down”.

On the other hand, this child’s parents may be so used to hearing their cries and complaints that it didn’t occur to you to ask them what their fears or insecurities might be. 

You may be surprised to find that your child isn’t just afraid of “lousy marks” – they may be comparing themselves to their classmates, feeling inadequate compared to their siblings, or aiming for a particular school for reasons you never knew! 

As their parents, your job isn’t only to set realistic goals with them. It’s also to create a safe space in which they can daydream and “freak out”... Often, going through that process is what allows you and your child to settle on a set of attainable goals together!

Instead of setting goals purely based on the cut-off point for schools or the grade boundary for a subject, why not start by asking your child to tell you all about their hopes and fears? No immediate “actions” need to be taken from here – use it as an opportunity to connect with them before you start setting goals together.

Download the app:
Download on the App Store
Get it on Google Play