By Steve Reifman
Parents are their children's first and most important teachers. In this critical role parents have the greatest impact on their kids' academic, physical, social, and moral development and the greatest impact on their children's motivation to learn. In my experience, parents are typically eager to do everything in their power to contribute to their children's success in school, but they're not always shown how to do this. The following suggestions will help parents empower their kids to be the best they can be.
1. Commit yourselves to playing an active role in your child's education. Frequently, many parents leave the responsibility for their child's education solely with the teacher. No matter how satisfied you may be with your child's teacher (and I hope you are very satisfied), this practice is unwise. Remain involved on a consistent basis, and feel free to ask questions and raise any concerns you may have about your child's progress.
2. Repeatedly express to your child how important it is to work hard, take school seriously, and achieve as much as possible academically. Explain all the benefits which come from learning, such as increased pride and confidence, greater educational and career options, and a greater ability to participate in community affairs and activities. You can never repeat this message too many times.
3. Develop a homework policy with your child. No television until all homework is complete? No play time? Discuss these issues with your child so both of you are clear about your family's expectations for home study. Then be sure to hold your child accountable with regard to these expectations. Completing homework should not require a nightly battle.
4. Provide your child with a quiet study area. If possible, supply a desk and a spot to keep all necessary books and materials organized. With or without a desk, however, it's critical your child have a consistent, well-lit place to study that is free from distractions. Providing such an atmosphere will not only enable your child to have an easier time studying, but also it will send a clear message you think doing homework is an important priority.
5. Encourage your child to complete homework activities as independently as possible; offer help only when necessary. Giving too much assistance may cause your child to become too dependent on you while not giving enough may cause frustration. Strive to achieve the right balance so your child exercises responsibility while you still remain actively involved in overseeing their efforts, both on daily homework activities and during long-term projects and test preparation.
6. Respond promptly to all notices your child's teacher and the school office send home. Do your best to stay on top of these matters.
7. Discuss school events and happenings with your child as frequently as possible.
8. Be sure your child gets enough sleep each night and eats a nutritious breakfast each morning. Students perform significantly better academically and are able to put forth consistent effort when they are well-fed and well-rested.
9. Be sure your child takes to school each day all needed supplies. Of particular importance is a sturdy folder or binder in which students can securely transport homework papers and other important documents to and from school.
10. Encourage your child to exercise as much as possible. More is being written every year about the importance of exercise and its powerful impact on the brain. Exercising before school has been shown to improve children's focus and attention.
Following these suggestions dramatically increases the likelihood students will be successful in school. Specifically, when parents consistently emphasize these priorities, kids will be more responsible, organized, and motivated. In addition, they will work with greater focus and greater purpose and be far more likely to maximize their considerable potential.
Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher in Santa Monica, CA. He is also the acclaimed author of several books, including Changing Kids' Lives One Quote at a Time and Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8, and the creator of the Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12. For tips and strategies on teaching the whole child, visit www.stevereifman.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com