Academic Success for Children is Linked to Hope


Did you know that students who have more hope actually do better academically?

And people who have hope generally fare better during life’s difficult turns?

These are the findings of the late Dr. Charles Richard Snyder, a clinical psychologist at the University of Kansas who developed a scale to measure how much hope people have.

His findings about students should be required reading for parents.

“Students with high hope set themselves higher goals,” Dr. Snyder told The New York Times in a 1991 interview. “They also know how to work to reach their goals. As a result, they are more likely to be successful in
school…and in life.”

Snyder’s seminal book on the topic of hope, The Psychology of Hope, is still considered required reading for those in the positive psychology movement.

According to Snyder’s research, students with high levels of hope have several things in common, these 5 being the most universal:

  • They turn to friends for advice on how to achieve their goals.
  • They tell themselves they can succeed at what they need to do.
  • Even in a tight spot, they tell themselves things will get better as time goes on.
  • They are flexible. They find different ways to reach their goals
  • If hope for one goal fades, they aim for another.

Hopeful students, Dr. Snyder found, inherently know how to reach their goals in doable steps, and therefore don’t allow themselves to be overwhelmed. Conversely, those low in hope “see only the large goal, and not the small steps to it along the way,” Dr. Snyder said.

Hope in students can also be thwarted, however, most often by clashing learning styles. For example, students who learn by listening—auditory learners— may struggle and lose hope if taught exclusively in a visual manner. This and other areas that challenge students’ sense of hope are detailed in a guest blog post for by Carol Wooten, winner of a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. For parents whose children are struggling in school and feel hopeless, Woonten tells parents to “be positive with your child and provide opportunities for your child to be successful.” That doesn’t mean coddling your child, however; in fact, Woonten also says parents should set high expectations and model them at home.

But what about those children who aren’t naturally optimistic? Can hope be taught? Yes, according to Dr. Synder’s research.

“Hope can be nurtured,” he said, explaining that parents can help their children by modeling the common characteristics, previously listed, that are shared by hopeful people.

Carol Brooks Ball, Boston, Massachusetts

Carol is the editor of, the website that helps parents help their kids succeed in school. From grade-by-grade listings of what parents can expect academically and socially as their children grow, to printable worksheets and checklists, to tips on handling issues such as bullying, covers preschool-age through college. The site also offers a Recipe Share, with recipes for nutritious fare kids can make by themselves, quick and easy weeknight dinners, and recipes to make with kids. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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(2) Readers Comments

  1. Carol, you’ve nicely summed up what good schools are – hopeful places for children, staff and parents. A school grounded and focused on hope creates more engagment, satisfaction, and positive outcomes. While this may be challenging to achieve given the practical realities of a school environment it is nonetheless the foundation of a good school.

    Yet, as you have wisely suggested, hope is also the foundation of so many critical aspects of life and living – parenting, personal well-being, places of work, organizations, government and the environment.

    Thanks Carol for reminding us of the importance of nurturing hope in our lives.

  2. Thanks, Gary. I found the research about the relationship between hope and academics fascinating, and I expect A Hopeful Sign readers will too. For many, be there children or adults, being hopeful comes naturally; for others among us, however, it is something that must be cultivated. The 5 characteristics that those with high hope share are traits that can be nurtured—in children as well as adults. Thanks for the opportunity to share this information on your terrific site, Gary.