If there were a vitamin that parents could give to their children that would ensure success in school, it would fly off the shelves. More than ever, successful completion of high school, as well as vocational training or college to follow, are essential for adult independence. Poor grades often indicate weak motivation or learning issues that justifiably concern college admission offices and future employers.
School success starts at home, and it starts with reading aloud to infants, toddlers, and children, a practice directly linked to success in school and in life in any number of research studies. Children also need to see their parents doing leisure reading Families who routinely sit and eat dinner together and talk about what’s happening in their lives set the stage for student success.. When you don’t just ask “How was school?” but “What did you learn in science today?” and really listen to the answer, you teach your child that her schooling matters to you, which will incline her to make it matter to her.
The data from a recent study on helicopter parents tells us that intervening in day-in and day-out classroom doings simply doesn’t yield the desired results. Parents who call teachers to protest a pop quiz, or to question a grade or to “explain” a situation don’t produce success for their child. In fact, they are likely to be creating passivity and resentment (“learned helplessness”) in the child, without intending to do so. Helping your child from home is what your child needs, but diddling with the dials at school is not. Certainly, attending any and all school-scheduled teacher conferences, parent events, creating quiet time and space for homework and reading, demonstrating steady interest in your child’s school day are the contributions parents can make which will lead to a positive difference over time.
If your child forgets his lunch or lunch money at home, don’t run it into him at school. He won’t forget it again after either being a bit hungry or having to beg leftovers from friends. When your child complains that his teacher was “mean” to him at school, don’t take the bait: respond with, “What did you do to make Ms. Smith angry with you?”
Of course there are the instances when a parent needs to get involved: persistent peer bullying, poor progress, a sudden drop in grades, negative feelings about school. These are indications of potentially serious problems, and parents are well within their rights to request a prompt teacher conference to move towards a solution. Finding a well-qualified tutor outside of school is often a lifesaver when a child is struggling in a class.
Seek experiences that will extend a child’s frame of reference and develop her independence. Summer camps, starting with day camps, are important opportunities for learning and independence in a fun and social setting. Lessons in whatever interests your child, as well as out of school sports are also opportunities for learning.
Video games, cell phones, and tv are the junk food of a child’s intellectual nutrition, so the wise parent will restrict intake!
Sarah C. Reese