Three Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Child Be Successful In School
Remember those first days when your child began school? You looked at and complimented every paper. Many were stuck on your refrigerator. You probably shared every excitement and worried about every disappointment. Unfortunately, as time goes on and children move up in grades, parents' attention falls off. Teachers have long known that continued parent interest in schoolwork and homework is the single greatest factor in a child's success in school. This is not only true for kindergarten. It is equally true for all of high school.
You may want to review two new studies that show the importance of parental interest and encouragement in high school. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company annual survey shows a powerful correlation between high grades in high school for students whose parents continue to show attention to school. Former Secretary of Education Joseph Califano shows that parental attention is closely correlated to drug use.
In elementary school years, parents feel very comfortable calling out spelling words and correcting simple math problems. Their attention drops off as middle school students begin a foreign language that parents don't know or bring home algebra problems that parents can't factor.
As schools telescope more rigorous courses into lower grades, parental attention drops off earlier and earlier with each passing year. If you can't fathom an organic chemistry or calculus formula, if a graphing calculator is a mystery to you, what can you do to continue to show that you believe school is important?
The answer is amazingly simple. It works.
1. Ask about school. Every day, ask, “How was school today?” "What did you do in school today?" Most kids will answer, "Fine" or "Nothing." Press for a better answer or ask a more direct question: "What did you do in history? Did Mrs. Brown like your essay? How was the math test? Did other kids think it was hard, too?"
Even if your child responds with one-word answers and a show of impatience, your genuine interest continues to say to him or her that you think school is important. A lack of interest and persistence on your part conveys the opposite message. Ask about school every day. Listen to your child's answers. Respond to them.
2. Check homework. Even if you can't read Latin or don't know flora from fauna, you convey the message that you think school is important. Trust me. It works. "Do you have any homework? Have you done all your homework? Is it neat? When is your next test? Should you be studying for it? If you have paper due in the future, should you be working on it?" Ask about homework every night. Listen to the answers. Respond and encourage.
3. Talk to the teacher. When teachers and parents know each other, kids know that. They do better work. You don't have to wait for a special school night to do this. Write a note. Ask for a phone call. Ask for a conference. Just say, "Hi, I'm Joey's father and I'd like to ask you how you think he's doing in your class." If you can give the teacher advance notice, he or she can review some of Joey's grades and work before you meet, and that will make the conference more helpful.
These three suggestions are the best advance I can give. They are the most effective things you can do to assure that your child gets the most out of school.