Success in school is about more than earning good grades. The effort kids make in school helps them build a strong foundation of responsibility and self-esteem that they will need throughout their lives.
Your actions and attitudes play an important role in supporting students. Here are four ways parents can help their children succeed in school and develop skills they’ll carry into adulthood.
Make School a Priority
Make sure you leave enough time in your daily and weekly family schedule for kids to complete schoolwork and get enough rest.
“We have to show our kids with scheduling choices, by creating a space for them to complete homework, by the effort we put into reinforcing school rules, that we mean it,” advises Debi Gilboa, a pediatrician and mother of four boys in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Being a good role model also means staying positive about school, even when things are difficult. Don’t complain about the teacher assigning too much math homework. Instead, make sure your child understands how to do the math problems and help her break the assignment into more manageable pieces.
“If we’re sending our children to formal private or public education, we have to be all in,” Gilboa says. “Maybe they don’t love writing, but for their future success they need to learn how to write a good essay so they can get the grant in their chosen field,” for example if they end up in a field that requires grant applications or frequent business communications.
Get Involved at School
Take advantage of opportunities to be at school and interact with staff members. Go to parent-teacher conferences. Attend after-school events like curriculum workshops, open house, and family movie night. Volunteer at school if your schedule allows. Volunteering at lunch or recess is a great way to observe the tone of the school.
“Keep your finger on the pulse of the school,” Gilboa says. “You need to learn about the school, the staff, and the other children who will have an impact on your child.”
If you had negative experiences at school as a student, don’t let those keep you from getting involved as a parent, advises Kerri Morse, a middle school psychologist in Columbia, Md., and mom of three.
“A lot of parents had negative school experiences themselves and are very intimidated about attending curriculum workshops and communicating with their child’s teachers,” Morse says. But when parents keep an open mind and find out what’s happening at school, they can really support their child.
Don’t Get Too Involved With Homework
Many parents sit with their children after school and help them complete homework or look over completed work and point out wrong answers. But this is one habit families should break.
“Homework is supposed to be independent practice, and your child should be able to do it on their own,” Morse says. “If your child thinks their homework is correct, you can look it over, but don’t correct it. It’s OK to let your child experience the natural consequences of mistakes.”
If your child is truly struggling with an assignment and has worked for a long period of time, avoid the temptation to help him complete the work. Instead, write a note to the teacher explaining where he had difficulty.
“Too many parents tell us about battles with their children over homework that can turn family time into a struggle,” Morse says. “Talk to the teacher sooner rather than later if this is happening.”
It’s important to help kids learn to manage their time. This may mean making a rule that video games aren’t allowed until homework is complete, or saying no when your child wants to add another activity to her already packed schedule.
“Adults have our tricks for keeping our schedules straight, but kids don’t have those tricks,” Morse says. “Parents need to teach kids how to plan their time. Some nights that might require doubling up on homework.”
Parents also need to help their kids adopt more general healthy habits, like eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly, Gilboa says.
“All children will benefit from 60 minutes of vigorous activity a day. They will eat better, get sick less, fall asleep faster, and sleep better,” she says. All of which will make them better prepared for the next school day.
5 Homework Tips for Parents
- Create a homework routine. It could be doing assignments right after school or after dinner.
- Set aside a space. Some students might like a comfortable spot with fun decorations while other students need a quiet corner where they won’t be distracted. A set space means less chance of losing long-term assignments like spelling packets or research papers.
- Keep supplies in reach so there’s no need to wander around the house looking for pencils and scissors.
- Don't do too much. Be there to support your child, but do not do the homework for him. The goal of homework is independent practice.
- Set the right attitude. Don’t disparage homework or call it “busywork.” Homework is a time to reinforce classroom learning.