The Star Student
This story is about a friend of mine, Dustin. And how that attitude "happened" to him.
When he was in school, Dustin was an average student. He skated by and got okay grades. But for this story, it’s not his grades I want to talk about. You’ll see why.
It’s his football skills. Bear with me. I have a reason for this.
So, all through elementary school, and middle school, Dustin was the football star. Over and over he led his team to victory. His parents cheered him on. The crowds cheered him on. His coaches (and everyone else) told him he was wonderful! When Dustin entered high school the glory continued. By his sophomore year, he was picked for the varsity team.
Again, Dustin stood out as the hero. But now it was bigger. High school games were published in the paper. The crowds were bigger. The fans were more excited.
The Headlines read:
“Dustin Leads Team to Victory Again”
Life was good for Dustin.
Btw, this story wouldn’t have happened if Dustin had had a real struggle with reading. Kids who have reading problems simply don’t get those opportunities to shine like Dustin did. But here’s an inspiring story of one who did. And in football even. Except it took some drastic measures. But sometimes drastic measures are needed. I think you’ll like it. Worth the 3-minute read.
And now back to our story.
Dustin’s social life was great, as you can imagine.
His home life was great, with a proud Mom and Dad.
His grades were, well, okay. But who cared. Not Dustin. Football would carry him.
With that performance on the field, certainly, any college would take him. Despite his less than stellar grades. Dustin was destined for college greatness!
Or was he?
Well, what happened next was a big shock. For everyone. Especially Dustin. Dustin was in a trap. A trap that so many kids fall into. And it affects kids with reading problems worse. You'd think that a kid like Dustin, with all those talents, would have an easy ride.
Not so much.
Dustin had a fatal flaw. A flaw that can be created by well-meaning encouragement. And once it is created it affects everything. Especially academics. What stopped Dustin from succeeding in football also stops many children from succeeding in academics.
He Seemed Lazy, But That Was Just a Facade
So Dustin. After all those glorious victories. After all those wins. From elementary school. To middle school. And freshman, sophomore, and junior year of high school. He was a star. He ate it up.
Then came his senior year.
Dustin was looking forward to it. Finally, his senior year had come. He was looking forward to his most victorious football year yet. And after that, there would be college. And oh the fun of being a college football star. That was going to be just amazing.
Except for one thing…
Dustin strolled into tryouts. He had had a great summer and was looking forward to showing his stuff to the new coach.
Impress he would.
Except that he didn’t :-(
Dustin did not make the team.
He was crushed. His Dad was crushed.
Life fell apart for Dustin. (As I write this he’s probably playing video games in his parent's basement.)
Dustin never pulled it back together. He’s about to hit 30 and has never done anything to better himself since that day.
He has not gone to college.
He can barely hold down a job. Even if it’s just washing dishes at the local greasy spoon.
Oh, well, there are video games. He is pretty amazing at video games… but that's unlikely to get him anywhere.
So why did Dustin not make the team?
Was he not a team player?
No that wasn't it. He was actually incredibly friendly and social and loved his teammates.
No, he was probably the most talented player on the team.
So what was it?
He didn't try hard. He didn't put in the effort. (But there's a reason for that)
So was he lazy?
Nope, that's not it. He appeared to be lazy. But that was just a facade.
What was it?
Dustin had an extreme anxiety about "trying to hard"
Sounds weird, doesn't it?.
Well, it's actually very common. And chances are, your child has it. Or is on the way to developing it.
So let's understand the why? Before that happens to your child.
Praise Gone Wrong
Dustin had always been praised for how talented he was. His parents raved about him. Cheered him on relentlessly from the stands at every single game.
His previous coaches lavished praise.
The cheerleaders, well they were pretty amorous towards him. He especially liked that. The entire school loved Dustin because he was such a great football player and a great guy. You'd think he would have the highest self-esteem on campus.
But he didn't.
All that praise.
Huh? Praise causes low self-esteem and anxiety?
Yes, I know. You are probably right now saying "Liz you are bonkers".
But I'm not. There is a psychological reason.
The problem was the type of praise. It was all praise about how great he was. Which put all the focus on his natural talent. Not on how hard he tried. Our subconscious mind is pretty tricky, and here's how Dustin's subconscious came to it's "logical" conclusion.
Dustin's Subconscious Mind logic:
"Everyone loves me because I am great"
"I am great because I have talent"
"If I am so talented I do not have to try"
"If I try hard it shows I have no talent"
"If I have no talent I am not great"
"If I am not great no one will love me"
"If no one loves me I will be miserable and useless"
"If I am miserable and useless I might die"
So Dustin did not try, because he was scared to death, literally, of trying. If he put in 100% effort and failed it would be devastating.
His coach realized this and didn't want him on the team because he knew he would fizzle out. Talent only goes so far. Only Grit carries a player/student through when things get difficult.
So, you might ask, "But Liz, how does this relate to my child's reading?"
Well, this exact same thing happens to children with a learning struggle. Just a little praise for them being smart or a good reader, or getting a good grade. This done repeatedly, causes them to build up anxiety about anything that would prove otherwise.
- Reading in front of the class
Because they know that in those instances they may be proven "Not smart". And that little bit of self-esteem, which was riding on a very fragile bubble...
...crashes to the ground.
Just like Dustin, their subconscious works a weird logic. (And mind you, this is at a very deep psychological biological level.) You cannot logic it away. It is emotional and at a base level, it is actually a fear of dying.
It's that deep. It goes like this:
"Mommy says I am smart"
"Mommy loves me because I am smart"
"That homework will show that I am not smart"
"If I am not smart, Mommy will not love me"
"If Mommy does not love me I will die"
Horrible I know. At a deep biological level, they can equate homework (or a test, or school, or reading in front of people) as death. It's no wonder they might be a little anxious.
And this is certainly not your fault. So many books, teachers, people, tell you to boost their self-confidence with praise. Except they left out one important detail.
How to Praise
Praise is important. It does boost self-confidence (and more) if done properly. And it only takes a little time to praise properly. Done improperly it can lead to disaster.
Self-Confidence is Critical to Learning
It's very simple. If a child has poor self-confidence and self-esteem EVERYTHING will be a struggle.
Poor reading skills lead to poor self-confidence and poor self-confidence leads to poor self-esteem.
So, it is essential to work on confidence. And the fastest path to developing better reading skills is to work on self-confidence first and throughout the entire process.
As a matter of fact, at Learning Success, we work on something even beyond self-confidence. It's called Grit.
Grit is what gets a person through difficulties. And if you break it down it is;
Self-confidence + Desire = Grit
This combo has been scientifically proven (study is here) to be the biggest predictor of success in, well, just about everything.
If you develop grit in your child, your child will be unstoppable.
We use six important tactics in the Learning Success System to develop self-confidence and grit.
Proper praise is the first of those tactics and that is our subject for today.
Proper praise is a very simple concept. With very profound results.
It's simply this:
- Make sure you are in a learning context. This does not apply to test taking or competitions
- Praise the effort, not the outcome
It's simply a matter of restructuring all praise sentences to focus on the effort when learning. Keep in mind, this only applies to learning. It has been popular to use the concept in test taking and competitions. That is not the place for it and things go terribly wrong when it is misused there.
You can start this today, and in a short amount of time, you will begin to see a change in your child.
Long-term the results will be amazing. Guaranteed!
Don't take my word for it, it is scientifically proven.
So, as simple as it sounds, it does take a little practice. And of course, I'm going to help you with that.
I've prepared a free download for you. It's a worksheet to help you get in the habit of proper praise.
You can download it here
You're going to love the changes you see in your child just by practicing that little exercise. And once you learn it it will become natural to you. You won't even think about doing it.
That's one technique.
Like I mentioned, we use six. We also do other tactics which improve learning and reading ability. There are actually over 300 exercises in the program.
All put together based on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology.
We recruited a full team of experts to design the Learning Success System specifically to get you to your goals in the fastest way possible.
Hundreds of parents have successfully gotten their children unstuck with the Learning Success System. Hundreds of children have gone from failing grades to outstanding grades. Yours can too.
You can get it here.
The tactic I taught you today will start the ball rolling on some big changes for your child. And changing the course of your child's life is really as easy as knowing simple tactics like this and adding them to your day.
Parenting is tough. But it's a lot easier with a little know how. Other smart parents take the easy route to helping their children become fantastic learners. You can too!
Do You Need help with a Learning Difficulty?
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Understanding how to help someone with a learning difficulty starts with understanding which micro-skills are affected. When you learn which of the micro-skills is the problem, you will then be on your way to solving it.
You'll also learn how to:
- Build confidence
- Enhance Learning ability
- Eliminate avoidance
- Build grit
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