“I Don’t Want to Make F’s, It’s Just That I’m Dumb” {Helping to Build My Child’s Self-Confidence in School}

As the 1st nine weeks of school has come to an end, I breath a sigh of relief.

One nine weeks down, three to go. We made it! Through lots of projects, hours of homework and studying, we made it … and I’m a proud momma.

I’m proud because through lots of hard work, all 4 of my kids made excellent grades, and soon we will be sitting through the honor roll ceremony where kids get presented with their certificates to award them for their hard work and good grades … and my eyes notice. I notice the straight A kids and the A/B honor roll kids, and I notice the kids that sit by the teacher … not moving. Their names not being called. The kids that slump down, not sure what to do with themselves as they sit there, nearly alone … and my heart hurts. My heart hurts for that child that worked just as hard as everyone else and is just as smart but didn’t make it … and I know. I know how it feels because my child has been there.

I’m talking about the child who sits for hours after school and needs help with everything. Not because they are lazy and want you to do it for them, but because they were truly lost all day and couldn’t keep up and now, after sitting through school for 7 hours, must sit a few more hours and have everything re-taught to them. I’m talking about a 2nd grader that comes home with a F on a test and you look at her and say, “Why? What happened?” and she cries and looks into your eyes and says, “I don’t know, Momma. I don’t want to make F’s. It’s just that I’m dumb” and hangs her head.

The child that for the next 5 years, still believes she’s just … dumb.

We had a moment in 2nd grade, when I went to volunteer in her classroom and all the kids lined up at the door to go out. On the back of the door was a chart that they all faced while lined up. It was an AR book chart. They got a sticker for every book they read and took a test on and passed. Every child had between 15-30 stickers. My child had 2. That was a hard moment. A moment when I realized she had to look at that chart everyday and compare herself to others. As a mother, I hated that chart.

Her self confidence was slipping away. Something had to be done.

After some testing and meeting with the school counselor and pediatrician, we were presented with the choice to medicate. There were some focusing issues going on, and an ADD diagnosis was made and the great debate took place in our household. It ultimately was my decision, as I looked at my husband and said, “Do you look at the tears in that child’s eyes everyday? Do you do hours of homework with a 7 year old that should be taking us 30 minutes? She deserves a chance, because if I do nothing, the light is going out in her.” After a couple of months of trying it, the emails from the teacher came “I can’t tell you the confidence I have noticed in M. For the first time ever, she is raising her hand.” That … that is what I needed to know.

I wasn’t turning my child into a future drug addict, I was saving her from slipping through the cracks.

Now, the medication wasn’t a catchall. It was a stool for her to be able to reach. The dedication and hours of hard work in the afternoons that she and I put in was hard. It was hard on the whole family. By the time she was in the 3rd grade, I had a 1, 3, and 4 year old that needed me. Our afternoons were miserable. Hours of going back and forth between her and the other attention seeking children. She worked so hard … and still no honor roll. I hated honor roll days. They were a punch in the gut, and her eyes would fill with tears and she’d plead to stay home on those days. We continued to struggle and in the 4th grade, a teacher suggested that I think about holding her back. This was a child so full of spunk and humor, who was/is a complete joy to her friends, but lurking inside is a hidden low self esteem. That conversation crushed her soul, “But everyone would know and make fun of me, and I would lose all of my friends. Please don’t do that to me, Momma.” So I continued to reteach her every afternoon amongst crying babies and dinner that needed cooking. By 5th grade, we were called into a meeting with all of her teachers because they noticed her grades were not up to par with the other kids, and I think they just wanted to let us know that maybe she needed to study more.

I broke down. I cried like a big, ole, sniffling baby. They were shocked.

Are you kidding me? Study more? Then I told them … That’s when one of the teachers said, “Then we need to get to the bottom of this. You can’t keep on like this. You are running out of steam.” It was suggested that we have testing done – I.Q. test, comprehension, and dyslexia test. I was all for it. I needed answers. SHE was totally against it. She felt like tutors and extra testing outside of school just singled her out and gave more people a chance to see how ‘dumb‘ she was. The psychologist sat us down when all of the testing was done and asked us how we thought she did. I honestly answered that I hoped she was in the average range but I was afraid to guess. He looked at me and smiled. Her I.Q. was in the ‘Very Superior Intelligence’ range (above the 90th percentile nationally) and she fell into the ‘Gifted’ range in math. Mind. Blown. I didn’t understand. “But,” he said, “Her listening comprehension is in the 10th percentile and her reading comprehension is in the 18th.” That was our answer. She sat through 7 hours of school a day, and her brain wasn’t processing what she was hearing. Kind of like the saying, ‘in one ear and out the other.’ She couldn’t focus on what was being taught, and she was having trouble comprehending what she was reading, so she was coming home at the end of the school day empty. 

I know how her brain works.

To all of those people that told me, ‘You need to stop holding her hand. She’s too dependent on you. You need to let go and let her figure it out.’ My answer was always no. For the next couple of years, I continued reteaching her everything. I know her learning style. I know how her brain works. I know what it takes to get her to where she needs to be. We have cut and matched a million vocabulary words through the years. I have read out loud more science and social studies chapters, stopping every paragraph to ask, “What did I just say?” while she does handstands in the hallway. Anytime she would start to doubt herself, I’d tell her to stop it, because I had the paperwork to prove just how smart she is. Her brain just works different.

She entered her 8th grade year last year and told me she wanted to do it alone. “I can do this,” she said. I watched her copy, cut and match her own vocabulary. I watched her make her own study guides and take tedious notes. I watched her mimicking all of the techniques I had done with her over the years. She was doing it. Every tear and crying baby pounding on the door needing me was worth it. 

She made straight A’s for the 1st time. Straight A’s! All on her own.

Every afternoon I watch her and I walk by and rub her back and say, “I am so proud and amazed by you. Look how far you’ve come.” Her work ethic is amazing.

My four hearts.

So parents, fight the fight. Hold their hand. Believe in them, and they will eventually believe in themselves.

Betsy Boudreaux
Betsy is a stay at home (but never at home) mom, to her four children, Maggie, Annie, Jack Henry, and Bear. She grew up in Hammond, La., but moved to Lafayette at the age of 18 to attend USL (now ULL!) After graduating with a degree in Interior Design, she married her high school sweetheart, Matt, and they moved to Shreveport, La., when he got accepted into LSU Medical School. During their 10 years in Shreveport, they had four children while Matt completed Medical School, Surgery Residency and a fellowship in Colorectal Surgery. As Matt worked long hours and Betsy was often raising the children by herself, she learned to "expect the unexpected", "go with the flow" and praise the Lord that they were all alive at the end of the day! After their 10 years there, they packed the family up and moved back to Lafayette, where they always knew they wanted to raise their family. They've been back in the area since 2011 and their lives are full of chaos, homework, studying for tests, after school sports, traveling for gymnastics competitions, and children that are growing up way to fast! Betsy spends many hours volunteering at the children's school, serving on the PTO board and driving the Boudreaux Bus! She truly enjoys every minute of it!

8 COMMENTS

  1. This was so beautiful to read!!! You are an amazing mom! Your article brought tears to my eyes as I cheered in my heart for your girl and her straight A’s. There are so many obstacles that can damage our children’s self esteem and it’s our job to stick through it with them, fight the fight, talk with them, and empower them to be all that they can be. We hold the vision of their true potential until they begin to see it for themselves. Congrats to both of you!

    • Well your comment brought tears to my eyes! “We hold the vision of their true potential until they begin to see it for themselves.” I love that. Thank you.

  2. Love this! Brought a tear to my eye as I can COMPLETElY relate to this post! I do the same thing with J everyday! He is my struggling student but my hardest worker! And he too made all A’s for the first time ever!!! Congrats to your girl! I know what an amazing achievement that is!

  3. Thank you for posting this! I am struggling with my 14 year old right now with English and Science and your article sounded just like what we are going through. I am at my wit’s end and didn’t know which way to go. Your article was just what I needed.

    • Since she was officially diagnosed, she qualified for a 504 Plan in school, which gives her extended test taking time (that really helps!), she can have test read to her in a separate room (that does not help her, it only messed her up) and suggestions such as sitting in the front of the classroom. To be honest, the most helpful thing, was getting my hands on an actual textbook vs. reading chapters on an iPad, and reading the chapter out loud to her and looking at the pictures. We would do a section a night as they learned it, then discuss what was just read for her to get the whole picture. She learned so much more with it being one on one, than in a classroom setting. I also always read her required reading books out loud to her. This takes a lot of patience! But she is now doing it on her own.

  4. I am going through this right now with my son. Did you medicate? I had him tested for add/adhd and he is a mild case of add/focusing. Should i test more before i medicate? Ib am terrified of a chemical dependent son.

    • My daughters diagnosis was also all about the focusing and add in a reading comprehension problem. She does not have ADHD, but rather ADD. I would say hers is mild also, as she is a model student as far is sitting still and APPEARING to be paying attention. Unfortunately, she just doesn’t absorb what is being taught. We did decide to medicate and have been since 2nd grade. She is currently in 9th. Her worse side effects are no appetite at lunch time at school and a foul mood when she 1st gets home from school. We have learned to live with both. I truly do believe the medicine has helped her tremendously, otherwise I wouldn’t choose to do it. I completely understand your fears though. Those fears creep into me every so often. I would take into consideration the grades he is making, his behavior in class, and his confidence level. I hope this helps. Keep in mind I’m not a medical dr or psychologist, just a Mom sharing my experience with my daughter and what helped her.

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