Students in the primary years are more aware of themselves in relation to others and face new obstacles in and out of school, which can be challenging for their self-esteem. A strong sense of self-confidence leads to better relationships, higher success in school, and greater independence. 💪
Now is the time to instill confidence so they have a stable foundation for the years to come.
Confidence building activities
For primary school students, every experience they have can build or break their confidence. No pressure though! 😉 Give your child plenty of opportunities to make decisions and choices. This includes trying new things and making mistakes - challenges are good!
Practice getting and giving compliments 🥰
Notice when your child is working hard or being kind, and point it out! Focus on process over product.
🚫 Rather than saying “good job,” or “you’re so smart” try observing something about the actions they took.
👍 “Wow, you wrote so carefully, this is really easy to read!”
👍 “That was challenging and you worked really hard, you must be so proud of yourself!”
Be less helpful 🧠
We can create doubt and insecurity when we step in and save the day too often. As a parent and a teacher, I know how hard it is to sit back and watch a student mess up, but they need that learning experience! By overcoming a challenge, they learn that they are strong and capable.
🚫 Avoid saying “be careful!” or “it won’t work that way” or “here, let me...”
👍 Instead, say nothing if you can! Or try a more neutral approach, like, “how do you think that will turn out” or “notice the ground is slippery here.”
Set goals 📝
Encourage your child to set short and long term goals. These can be academic or not. Setting goals and working towards them helps students to feel successful and builds confidence. For longer term goals, break them down into smaller milestones. The technique of visualization helps students become successful. Help your child picture themselves achieving a goal. 💭
Encourage problem solving 🤔
Whenever you can, allow your child to make decisions and solve problems. You want them to know that their thoughts and opinions matter and are important! Strike a balance of letting them learn from mistakes and giving them opportunities to succeed.
Give responsibility 🧹
When students are expected to help around the house, they learn that they are important and needed. This helps them develop self-confidence and will lead to greater abilities in the future.
How to deal with disruptive students in primary school
Are you dealing with new behavior challenges during lockdown? 😤 😳 The relationship between a parent and a student is much different than the one between a teacher and a student. But now you have to be both, and finding the right balance can be hard.
Let me tell you a secret that teachers know: behavior is communication. 🗣️
Your child’s behavior is telling you something. Rather than thinking about behavior from your perspective (he is trying to make me angry!), try to think about it from the child’s point of view. I love the quote “they aren’t giving you a hard time, they’re having a hard time.”
Acting out can be a way of seeking connection and testing limits, which is a normal part of childhood. In fact, it’s a great sign that your child is developing as they should! (even if it doesn’t feel great at the time 🙂)
Consider the ABCs of behavior as you look for the root cause of your child’s behavior:
💭 A for Antecedent
What happened before the behavior?
🎬 B for Behavior
What was the precise action the child did?
😞 C for Consequence
What was the consequence for the behavior? This can both be a natural consequence (child threw a toy and now it’s broken) and a given consequence (child threw a toy and now mom took it away).
❗Bonus: D for Discussion
Think about the whole situation. Remember behavior is communication. What is your child telling you? I love the mistaken goals of misbehavior chart for guidance. Your best move is to try to identify the types of things that set your child off and prevent them. 🛑 You can’t prevent everything of course, but it can be helpful to really know what the issue is below the surface.
Dad tells child he cannot go outside until chores are done
Yells at dad: “you are so mean!”
Dad yells back: “you don’t talk to me that way!” Sends child to room
Dad realizes child probably didn’t remember the chore and therefore thinks this is unfair. Dad talks with child to come up with a plan to write the chores on a chart and review it together each morning
Student just learned they did not score well on a quiz, then mom requests they finish their assignment
Throws school work onto the floor and refuses to keep working
Required to clean up and made to do school work while siblings play
After thinking it through, Mom realizes that child was feeling upset about the poor grade. Next time grades come in, she sits down with child to talk through their feelings and allows for some break time before going back to work
It takes time to identify the true cause for the behavior. Start with an open mind, and don’t be afraid to just ask your child what they were thinking at the time. They are surprisingly insightful!
Best practices for good behavior
- Give age-appropriate responsibility - this will reduce behavior that stems from feeling unimportant and will help grow confidence
- Make expectations very clear and age appropriate
- Involve the student in the rule-making so they feel ownership in the process
- Maintain consistency and follow through - don’t create rules and consequences that you can’t follow through on
Student leadership in primary schools 👩🏽🎓
Giving student leadership roles can help prevent behavior issues. But it’s not just for challenging kids! All students benefit from taking on leadership roles. It can be a huge boost to their confidence as well!
In Montessori, older students naturally take on leadership roles - teaching younger students, helping to plan long projects, keeping the classroom clean, etc. At home, give these same responsibilities to your children.
Leadership at home
Give control to your child whenever you can.
🛏️ Put them in charge of their self-care: making their bed, choosing clothes for the day, brushing hair and teeth.
🗓️ Encourage them to plan their day: what school work needs to be done? When will they take a break? What chores are on their to do list?
🍲 Do you have multiple kids? Give them opportunities to work together, maybe to plan a family activity or meal, or have them read to each other.
If you want to do a little more, have your child take on an independent project. Kids at this age are very interested in using their skills for the greater good. They care a lot about fairness and justice, and are very caring. ⚖️ 🤗
These are some ideas that were popular in my classroom and can easily transfer to home:
- Help organize a collection drive to send winter gear to children in need. 🧤
- Write letters to send to seniors. ✉️
- Raise money for an endangered animal and zonate to the local zoo. 🦓
Exam tips for primary school students
Like it or not, your student will have to sit for exams at the end of each key stage. Sats can be stressful for students and parents alike. 😰 But it’s important to remember they are only one small piece of your child’s education.
Most teachers I know view tests as a necessary evil. We know they don’t give the full picture of what your child knows, but we also want to make sure we are preparing them to do their best!
As the parent, your main job is to let kids know their best is great and you are supportive.
Help them prepare emotionally! Try some guided relaxation or download a mindfulness app.
I also liked to teach my students how the tests work. Especially for young primary students, the fear of the unknown can hold them back. Give them some knowledge of what to expect so they feel like they know a secret. We called them testing hacks, which the kids loved. Knowing what to expect helps build confidence, which in turn guides students to success.
Some testing hacks ✨
⏳ In a timed test, skip the ones you don’t know and work your way through the rest. Then go back to complete the harder ones in the remaining time.
✍🏽 Know how multiple choice questions work: There will always be an answer that is definitely wrong, so eliminate that one first. The other choices will be answers that you might get if you made a mistake (for example, a maths addition problem might have the answer you would get if you subtracted instead). Narrowing the choices down can make it less overwhelming.
📝 In written exams, practice restating exactly what the question is asking. Is it a compare and contrast? Is it looking for a description? Use that knowledge to format your answer.
If your student needs more support academically, we can help! GoStudent tutors work with students to prepare for exams. With one-on-one support, we can help your child feel confident and prepared to excel at their exams!🚀
Jen is a GoStudent learning expert and mom of one who focuses on Montessori education, child-directed learning, and building a growth mindset. She has a Master’s degree in teaching and over a decade of experience in both traditional and Montessori schools. She knows that kids learn best when they are given the freedom to make choices and take ownership of their studies. She is here for you to help you grow your child’s independence! 💪