It takes a team effort for children to be highly successful in school. Parents, teachers, and the students themselves all have a critical role to play. The teacher’s role is carried out primarily at school, while parents’ real impact happens mostly at home. This article focuses on what research has shown to be the most important actions parents can take to help their children maximize their amazing potential.
Emphasize that education is a serious quest. For children to be successful in school, they must “buy in” to the purposes of education. They need to be dedicated to their daily learning and embrace the importance of rigor. Children need to know that school is where they are expected to learn complex material and develop higher-level thinking skills so they can thrive in the world.
See yourself as a coach. Take a hands-on approach throughout your child’s elementary years. Read to or with your child frequently. Quiz them on their multiplication tables during dinner. Work with them on difficult concepts. Encourage them to try harder and do better. Try to speed the learning at home. Give them autonomy for methods; hold them accountable for results. This develops driven, self-sufficient kids who know how to adapt.
Foster an intellectual culture at home. Parents who discuss movies, books, news, the events of the day, and current affairs have teenagers who perform better in reading. Engaging kids in conversation about things larger than themselves helps them become strong thinkers. Ask kids about their days. Take genuine interest in what they are learning. Discuss what they like about school.
Develop the habits that matter most. Two of the best predictors of academic performance are self-discipline and conscientiousness. Children can develop self-discipline by doing household chores and by taking as much responsibility as possible for their own learning. Children are resilient. They are smarter and tougher than many adults often assume. Their psyches aren’t fragile. Rigorous work frequently involves failure, and kids need to experience failure when they are young to develop self-discipline, endurance, and grit. These experiences matter as much as or more than academic skills. Let your child make mistakes and then get back to work. The goal is to create a mindset of high expectations and success.
Aim to be warm, responsive, and strict. Recognize your child’s progress, but don’t praise excessively. When given, praise needs to be specific, authentic, and focused on effort, not intelligence. Kids need clear, bright limits; they need to know that there are rules you don’t negotiate. Being consistent will gain your child’s trust and respect.
Reinforce the importance of reading. Read for pleasure at home. Children are more likely to enjoy and value reading when they see their parents reading. Set aside time with your child to discuss what you’re reading and what your child is reading. Even if you haven’t read your child’s book, you can ask questions that encourage kids to think for themselves. Being a reading role model sends a strong message to your child that you value reading and value learning about all kinds of new things. As adults, what we do is always more powerful than what we say.
Make math a top priority. Math has a way of predicting kids’ futures. Teenagers who master higher-level math classes are far more likely to graduate from college and earn more money after college. This is partially due to the fact that more and more jobs require familiarity with probability, statistics, and geometry. In addition, math is not just math. It is a language of logic. It’s a disciplined, organized way of thinking. There are right answers and rules that must be followed. Math is the essence of rigor. It builds perseverance and grit. Mastering the language of logic helps to develop higher-order habits: the ability to reason, to detect patterns, to make informed guesses. These kinds of skills have rising value in a world where information is so accessible.
This year, focus on the following math-related goals:
1) Help your child master his/her basic facts (if (s)he has reached the middle grades). When kids are automatic with their facts, their brains are freed up to do the harder work.
2) Present a favorable view of math. A child should never hear a parent say, “I can’t do math” or “I’m not a math person” or “Math was never my thing.” Parents who hold a positive view of math and its importance are more likely to have children who enjoy and value math.
3) Reinforce the message that math is about effort. Many kids think that math is something that people either “get” or “don’t get.” Dispel this notion by encouraging consistent effort during moments of difficulty. Math can be mastered with time, hard work, and persistence.