A few weeks ago, I asked folks on the blog for advice on how to raise successful students for a presentation I was giving at a parenting event. I also cited many of their suggestions in my Nov. 19th AJC print column. (I edit the Monday education op-ed page and write a column for it.)
I didn’t post the column here as I figured that my readers knew all this stuff. But I’ve been getting a lot of requests for electronic versions of the column from principals, parents and PTAs — testimony to the wonderful suggestions offered by Get Schooled readers. I decided to post the column to make it easier for people to pass that great advice along.
So, here it is:
By Maureen Downey
I’ve dashed many a forgotten lunch, school report or permission slip to school.
Then one day, worn out from the frantic calls and even more frantic drives across town, I told my kids that they would have to go without lunch, take a lower grade on a late book report or miss a field trip if they failed to make the deadline.
And something miraculous happened. They started to remember.
It took four children, but I finally learned my lesson: Kids benefit at times when we do less for them, rather than more. Stop enabling them to shirk their responsibilities, and they will become more responsible.
My instincts were reconfirmed when, in preparation for a presentation at a parenting conference, I asked teachers recently on my AJC Get Schooled blog to share their best advice for helping kids succeed in life and in school.
Almost all had some version of this advice: Allow children to make mistakes. Stop being their buffer from all failure.
Here is other great advice from teachers and parents on the blog:
•Be involved in your child’s homework, but don’t do the homework. In elementary school, review what homework is required and help your child schedule the time to do it. Allow older children to manage their own homework load, but ask what subject they have every day. Offer to help your child study for tests. In general, be involved with your child’s school work.
•Allow your child to face the consequences of not doing homework or not studying for a test. Allow older children to be their own advocate with the teachers.
•When your children are frustrated with teachers or peers, ask them to think about how they contributed to the problem and think about ways to correct or prevent the problem in the future.
•For younger children, be near when they do take-home schoolwork, so that the experience is not isolating and (therefore) punishing for them. Wean them later on.
•Later on, cellphones should go on the shelf during study time. And the computer screen should always be visible to you.
•Encourage your child to start a study group during high school years. This is a success factor in college.
•Trust, but verify.
•Don’t browbeat your children or drive them. Let the expectation that they will be working for A’s linger heavily, but unspoken, in the air. Praise when they get them. Commiserate emotionally with lower grades (”I know you really wish that was a better grade”) but don’t encourage excuses.
•Get a library card — and use it.
•When your children do not do as well in school as you think they should, ask the teacher what you (and the children) need to do; don’t imply the teacher was wrong.
•Read. The more vocabulary, understanding and love of reading children have, the better they will do in all subjects.
•Speak to your children often — not just when you are angry. Focus on vocabulary development from a young age: The sky is blue, the grass is green, let’s count how many cookies.
•The most important thing is to show up and be present. Stay off your cellphone when you are with your kids. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen deflated spirits when a kid scores a goal, makes a basket or gets a good run … only to turn around and see that their parent was on the phone or texting while it happened.
•The evening meal should be a priority. Talk with your child, not at him/her. And talk about the work it takes to be successful, but also talk about the rewards of hard work. Talk about doing more and being better at choices than you were. Talk optimistically about his/her future.
•Provide a quiet place to study and sleep.
•Just because a teacher doesn’t assign homework doesn’t mean a child should do nothing academics-related at home. Talk about science, math and other interesting subjects with your children. Find their interests, and enroll them in camps or classes based on their interests. Buy books and DVDs related to their academic interests.
•Make sure children get plenty of sleep and nutritious meals. Sleepy and hungry children do not do well.
•Have your child’s eyes and hearing checked regularly. Your children will not do well if they can’t see or hear well.
•Ignore pressures for electronic games — even “educational” games. They suck up time and offer little value. Most video games turn kids into rude monsters who tune everything, and everyone, out.
•Encourage outside play.
•Worry about raising a good citizen as much as you do a good person.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog