Research suggests that parental involvement is a key ingredient to support success in school. But lots of parents don’t feel qualified to tackle the responsibility of teaching and wonder what they can do to help. The following are some things you can do and talk about to help your kids succeed–and feel good about it.
1) Make learning relevant–Make sure your child sees what he’s learning reflected in the “real” world. Ask questions. Find out what interested him/her during school find examples related to those topics of interest and expand your conversation. Look for real-world stories on the internet, at the library, or in the newspaper or magazines. By supplementing their at-school learning experience at home, you’re expanding their vision and promoting the idea that more info can be fun–and that what they learn is relevant.
2) Be cautious about how you talk about “learning” and “education” with your kids and around them. Kids inherit your attitudes and ideas about everything–they listen, they watch and they accept your beliefs as truth. It is important to avoid negative statements (i.e. how you had “difficulty in school” and that “teachers are unfair”). Instead, share your positive experiences in learning (i.e. how something you learned was useful or remembering your favorite teacher or an inspiring experience in school).
3) Model goal-setting behaviors. Kids are usually pretty “immediate”. They live in the moment and can’t always see the value of long-term goals–and sometimes they lose patience. When you talk about your own goals and how long-term planning helped you achieve your goals (and how much better off you are as a result), you’re demonstrating a pattern of behavior and thinking. If you talk without lecturing, kids will hear your stories and (without effort) assume your attitude as “the way we do things in our family”.
4) Demonstrate your commitment to your child’s success. Be sure you’ve supplied the “tools” for success: purchase a calendar or to-do list notebook to help him/her keep on schedule; dedicate a quiet, comfortable and well-lit space for home-work; maintain (and re-supply as necessary) a handy assortment of school/study supplies (paper, pencils, etc).
5) Organize your living space to reserve a special area for your child’s school papers. Dedicate a shelf or tabletop for books, backpack, school communications, lunch money, etc. When school materials are blatantly kept in a prominent area (rather than stashed away), you’re providing a constant visual reminder of the value of being prepared for school–And, important items are less likely to get lost or forgotten.
6) Be a “Coach”–actively support your child with encouraging words and confidence-building praise. It isn’t your job to teach your child when you’re helping with homework–teaching is the teacher’s role. Teachers assign homework to give students an opportunity to review what was learned in school and practice skills that were taught and exercise independent responsibility. Kids will be more willing to buckle down with their homework (and actually learn) when they feel positive support from you rather than reacting to nagging, teasing, or threats of punishment. Coaches get more “work” out of their team with “you-can-do-it” type statements than they would with “do-it-or-else” threats. So, one more time: be a “Coach” for your kids to support their school success.