Why your kids are under-achieving

“I’m so dumb!”

That’s what one of my students (let’s call her Sarah) seems to have picked up recently.

She’s just started high school in London and I imagine this is a word or phrase she has somehow picked up in this ‘small fish, big tank’ environment. (I deduced this because she wasn’t using this word before September!)

Wherever she discovered the phrase, I’m not worried because ‘dumb’ is neither an absolute, nor her truth. I know that and she is beginning to learn this too.

It’s so easy to pick up and use destructive language against yourself – I refer to this as ‘self-talk’. Adults are no less susceptible to this bad habit than children and teens.

You may even use the same self-defaming self-talk yourself. Let’s call this negative self-talk or NST for short. Whatever you want to call it…


You’re setting a bad example for those around you, but even worse, your words have the power to create your future and you’re effectively creating a limited, small, negative future for yourself! Why would you want that? If you continually tell yourself ‘I’m dumb’, you’ll start living out that new, self-formulated reality.

I recently visited Manchester High School for Girls with this same message in mind. I asked the question, how powerful are your words and thoughts? The conversation was enlightening and we had fun getting rid of the ‘I’m dumb’ et al. terminology and replacing it with healthier, more enriching words and phrases.  I’ll share the keys to reversing the negative, defamatory self-talk below:

  • Recognise the NST.
  • Reject the NST. (Challenge it with a truth question.)
  • Replace the NST with a positive alternative (PST – positive self-talk).
  • Reaffirm this PST repeatedly.
  • And that new PST? Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

So as an example, I’ll walk you through my conversation with Sarah…

‘You’re not ‘dumb’. You simply made a mistake. You’ve got lots of other answers correct, so how can you be dumb?’

‘Yeah, I know. I’m not dumb. But that was a dumb mistake.’

‘Haha! You’re right! You’re still not dumb though. You’re getting better every day. You’re getting smarter and smarter. That’s your new statement!’

Now, every time Sarah tries to quote the ‘I’m dumb’ line, my response, ‘really?’ helps her to recognise the NST and reaffirm the new PST, ‘Oh…I’m getting smarter and smarter!’

We may not see the results in an instant, but her demeanour and confidence has certainly improved, and I’m certain that with continued, consistent input and hard work, she’ll achieve her goals.

And that’s why I’m so excited to be able to offer tuition to more students like Sarah via Manchester Tutors but also through school visits like my most recent one at North Cestrian Grammar School, Manchester.  My desire is always to support young people’s growth and development not only academically and physically, but also mentally and emotionally – to foster self-belief and a healthy growth-mindset, unafraid and unashamed of making mistakes, knowing that it’s the positive, proactive way they recover from their errors that helps them to achieve even greater results than before!

Get in touch to find out more about school visits.

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