It’s already August. Summer is fast coming to a close. For those with children, the end of summer means the beginning of the school year. You can’t ignore it. Stores are displaying notebooks, backpacks and back-to-school clothes. You may be already getting notices about classroom assignments and bus routes, dress codes and school policies.
But it takes more than a new lunchbox and knowing what room to go to that first day to set your child up for success this year. It takes positive parental involvement from the start. Every year is a new opportunity to put helpful supports in place. If you’re not already doing the things that ensure school success, make a promise to try harder this year. If you are already actively involved in providing the needed support, pat yourself on the back and recommit.
7 ways to help your child succeed in school:
- Be a positive role model. Kids do watch us carefully. After all, they have much less to do than we do. While we are juggling jobs and household chores and kids, our kids spend a lot of their time just watching us. They learn more from what they see us doing than from what we say. If you want your child to be interested in school, they need to see you reading, writing, doing math and being interested in the world. So — do let them see you reading a newspaper or scanning news items online. Always take books to read with you when you know you are going to have to wait in some waiting room or the car. Talk at dinner about new discoveries in science and current events. When the kids sit down to do their homework, sit down and pay your bills, write emails or a letter, or read a few chapters in a book. Comment now and then about how glad you are to know the things you learned in school.
- Show a positive attitude. Kids will take in your attitude toward school through the very pores of their skin. Even if you hated, hated, hated school, you don’t need to share your bad experiences with your children. Nothing good will come of it. Since nothing is 100 percent all bad, focus instead on the teacher you liked, things you are glad you learned, friends you made — anything positive. If you loved school (or merely liked it well enough), be sure to share memories of good times and good teachers and how important it has been to your life that you have an education.
- Provide structure. Young kids can’t be expected to settle down and do homework on their own. The part of their brain that does planning and organizing isn’t sufficiently developed. Teens are often so distracted by worries and preoccupations with the social scene that it’s hard for many of them to get to their assignments. Parents are responsible for being their kids’ “brains” until their own brains kick into gear. So set up a routine for doing homework. Provide the supplies they need, a space for doing their work, and a time where nothing else goes on except homework. Ideally, you should be available for help and encouragement. That’s why so many families have kids do homework at the kitchen table either before dinner or when dishes have been cleared away.
- Take the time to organize them. The number of assignments or worksheets kids bring home can be overwhelming to them. Take a few minutes at the beginning of homework time to look at what the kids are supposed to do and to help them organize their study time. Which assignments can they get done quickly? Which need more effort? Are there books and supplies they need to have handy? Help your children prioritize their tasks and cut them down to size. Gather what they will need to do a good job so they won’t be bobbing up every five minutes to get the pencil, book or gluestick they need. When you do, you not only help them tackle their homework but you teach them important organizing skills.
- Limit screen time. It’s a new challenge for parents these days. Some computer time may be necessary for your child to do homework. But doing research is different from playing video games, or logging on to Facebook, Twitter and chats. By all means, give your children the access to the Internet they need to get their work done. But monitor it carefully. The many screens in their lives are a major detriment to doing a good job on assignments and taking in what they are supposed to be learning.Game and chat time should only happen after homework is done. If the kids can’t resist the alerts from cell phones, put them in a drawer until study time is over. TVs should be off, too. Kids can’t focus on their work if they are also trying to follow a TV story. If they need background noise to study (some kids do), turn on a radio.
- Eliminate criticism. Scolding, nagging, blaming, and criticizing are not tactics that make kids love school. Quite the opposite. When kids feel that they can never please their parents no matter how hard they try, they often give up. When conversations about school are usually negative, the negativity sticks to their attitudes about all things academic.
- Encourage. Kids respond positively to interest, encouragement and achievement. Be interested in what they are studying. Encourage them in their efforts. Don’t hand out phony praise. If a piece of work isn’t good, don’t say that it is. Reward real achievement with enthusiasm, smiles and approval. Kids don’t need monetary or material rewards, unless the adults in their lives have taught them that that’s the payoff for doing what they are supposed to do. Genuine achievement is its own reward. Parental pride and appreciation for work well done has greater positive impact on self-esteem than any material gift.