During a chat with my sons’ teacher the other week she mentioned that he was struggling more than previously, particularly in Maths.


As a counsellor, who teaches self-confidence in schools around the country, I found myself with the opportunity to apply my own principles to my son’s situation.


Here are some of the ideas I tried, which I hope you find useful.


  1. Use the word confidence 


Whatever our children may be ‘struggling’ with it is important to focus on their feelings of confidence and self-belief, because these are the keys to success.  Open the conversation by asking “How confident are you feeling about school / maths / friendships… at the moment?


the reputation you have with yourself… is the single

most important factor for a fulfilling life”

Nathaniel Brandon, Psychologist.



Certainly don’t say things like “your teacher says your struggling, what’s the matter?” or even worse “why are you slipping, aren’t you trying hard enough?”.  These questions focus negatively on the consequences, rather than gently finding out the cause of our children’s feelings.


  1. Use scaling questions 


I ask questions using a 1-10 scale, for instance:


How much do you like ………… out of 10 at the moment? 

How much did you used to like it?

What has made it lower do you think? 

These questions can provide clearer insight into how a child feels in specific situations, and why.


  1. Ask what would be most helpful. 


When we are worried about our children we sometimes want to either:


  1. a) Shield them from the problem by perhaps saying “don’t worry, I’ll sort it out, I’ll speak to your teacher…”


  1. b) Push them to sort it out by saying “Why don’t you do this, try that, not do this…” etc


Instead of ‘shielding’ or ‘pushing’ I believe we offer the best support by standing side by side and asking “What would be most helpful?” 


This is an empowering question which gives children the opportunity to take ownership of their situation, and the power to be allowed to come up with their ideas for what might make a difference.


  1. Suggest ideas, but let them choose which to try. 


It is useful to explain that a few different ideas might need to be tried before finding what works best for them.  This teaches the idea of resilience because we all need to remain flexible and use different strategies depending on the challenges we might face at different times in our lives.


I suggested several confidence-building ideas to my son, and he chose the ones that he thought would be most helpful, namely; a) joining the school maths club and b) asking for homework help from a relative.  We will monitor how he gets on!


What strategies to you deploy when you are struggling?