Confidence Building


Raising kids is hard, maybe the hardest thing we ever do.  But raising kids during and after a divorce seems to be even harder.  There are many struggles along the way, but right now I am really struggling with how to enable my daughter to build her self-confidence. Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize and even know that this is something ALL parents deal with, not just the ones who are divorced. And my struggle and my daughter’s lack is no different than others. Except to us.


My daughter is a busy girl. School, friends, ice skating, tutoring, going from mom’s to dad’s and back. And that is just on a daily basis.  

In our here and now, we are dealing with less-than-desired grades in math. Not in math overall, but on a math test. It happens, and has probably happened to us all, an off day and we get a bad, even a failing, grade on a test. As adults, most of us have come to know that one grade does not define us. But as a sixth grader, it can be devastating.  


Math has always been, let’s say challenging, for all my kids. Because I loved math when I was in school and always did well in math, our joke has always been that our children got their math genes from their dad.


Because of a few bad test grades in Math, and C constitutes bad in some books, not mine, my daughter was forced to give up skating and take on tutoring.  At first I agreed with the tutoring, not with the removal of skate, but after awhile the results from tutoring were far less than expected. I chose to not take her to tutoring and instead to spend one-on-one time with her working on her math. This, as you can imagine, caused even more issues as I was not doing what I was told (read into that what you will).


So I spend two nights a week one-on-one with her on Math, for a minimum of an hour each day. She spends another two nights at the above-mentioned tutoring. Even though I saw an improvement on homework grades on the mornings after I worked with her, her other homework, as well as test scores, were still lacking.  


I had a long conversation with her teacher.  Even after being told that my daughter is capable and participates in class, that she seems to make “silly” mistakes and she just seems  to hurry through her work, and yes, lacks confidence,  I struggle with how to help my daughter.


I continue to work with my daughter and even when we see some improved grades, my daughter continues to have the opinion that she can’t do it, that math is hard.  What makes this even more difficult for me is that she does not seem to lack confidence in other areas of her life. When she competes in ice skating, she is confident and it shows. When she talks about her friendships, her appearance she is confident. So why with math does she take on a totally opposite view?


She came out with a B on her report card  in Math. She seemed happy, we praised her, cheered for her, took her out to celebrate.  She returned to school after winter break and two days later failed a math test. We were stumped.


Once again, I contact her teacher and we have a lengthy conversation. And again her teacher assures me my daughter can do this, that her mistakes are still silly. The teacher says my daughter needs to slow down, pay attention to detail, but most importantly, she needs to believe she can do it. However, even the teacher doesn’t have tips, pointers, or suggestions of how to boost my daughter’s confidence in math.


After school and skate, I sit down with my daughter to do her math homework. Her first comment, yep, you guessed it: “this is hard.”  


How do you know it is hard when you haven’t even looked at it, I wondered. We begin and the trend is the same; she does one or two problems and says she needs help. We read it together, look up definitions and do the problems together. Even once she seems to understand and we complete several problems correctly, she is unable or is it unwilling to move on alone. If two angles equal a 90 degree angle and one angle is 32 degrees, what is the other angle? Her response: “well how do I know?” When I explain she needs to figure it out, she says she doesn’t know how, she gets frustrated. I then explain we just completed several problems together and she did the work and got it correct, she is still confused. She gets the answer wrong, most likely because she is guessing, then gets it wrong because she is using the incorrect formula. As I try to control my frustration, I again explain the problem and how to get the answer. We work through it and she finally gets it.  I praise her and tell her she CAN do it.


But I know tomorrow will be a repeat of today. So is negative attention better than no attention? Not for me, or at my house as she gets, or at least I think she gets, plenty of attention. But she says she doesn’t get homework help at her dad’s. Does she ask for it and not get it? Or does she not ask and expect two people who are focused on themselves to automatically know she needs help? I don’t know the answer.  


No matter the answer, or the cause, how do I get her to have the confidence in this one particular area that she seems so unwilling to try?  She can do it, I know it, I have seen it.  Why does she not see it?  Why does she not focus and concentrate and do what she is capable of?


How can a little girl so confident in so many ways struggle in one particular area so much?