Susan C. Stone's Practical Parenting Blog dotcom

Helping Children Succeed at School

Posted on: January 27, 2015

A good place to start to help your child succeed at school is to define for yourself what constitutes “success”! Is it getting all A’s? Is it getting into Harvard? We’ve tended to reduce the school experience to these goals. However, there is actually more to be gained – things that will benefit them well beyond those college years. For example, a love of learning. Hopefully we continue to learn all through our lives, and this is more likely to happen if the seed is planted early. We, of course, expect children to acquire knowledge but, just as importantly, to acquire the ability to think and analyze and the tools to achieve their goals – like perseverance and diligence. School is also a place where children can build their self esteem and confidence.

All this is best achieved if there is an alliance between the school and parents. Most parents are pretty clear on the school’s role, but less clear on how they can contribute to their children getting the most out of their school experience. The following is a blueprint for how you can make the best possible contribution to school success.

First, parents need to provide a beneficial home environment. Children should hear from you that  you value education for all the reasons mentioned above.  Beyond that, creating a stable home environment with schedules and routines sets children up to get the most out of their school day and teaches organizational skills. You can do this by regulating their sleep with set times to go to bed and wake up that provide them with sufficient rest. A set bedtime routine and consistent sleep environment will help you achieve this. Good nutrition is another important contributor. Have regular meal and snack times and watch the sugar and caffeine intake   (I know you don’t give your child coffee to jumpstart their day, but be aware that certain foods, beverages and medications contain a fairly good shot of caffeine).  Also, a calm, unrushed beginning to the day will help them arrive at school ready to learn.

A beneficial home environment also exists when you assess the strengths and weaknesses of each of your children and set your expectations of them accordingly – not too high or too low. Be open to accepting feedback from the school as to places where your child might be experiencing a lag so that appropriate intervention can begin. Also, let children know that you don’t expect perfection but rather “best efforts” and “personal bests”, that you value the attempt over the outcome. This means that you need to allow your children to make mistakes and fail. Then your job is to teach your children a “winner’s mentality”. This means that failures and mistakes are opportunities to learn they can survive and are empowered to make changes in future attempts.

Success in school also happens when parents teach good work habits.  Let your children do for themselves all they CAN do without excessive help from you. This builds a sense of competency which is not only a self esteem booster but good practice in functioning well in school.  Encourage perseverance and completion of tasks starting from a young age. Homework skills also need to be taught – decide where and when homework will be done, help children learn time management and the logical sequencing of a task. Remember also, this is not YOUR homework! You are there only as a resource. And watch the number of extracurricular activities your child engages in – they need adequate time to do their schoolwork as well as downtime to be ready for the next day.

Finally, home should be the first place that children learn that the adults are in charge. When children respect the limits and boundaries that their parents set, they come to school ready to cooperate with teachers and to take directions that enable them to learn. These are the children who get an extra self esteem boost because they know how to elicit positive feedback from the adults with whom they have to deal.

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