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7 Steps to Help Your Children Do Better in School

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/27/2007 | Parenting

Parents and families that take an active role in education have children that do better in school and grow up to be more successful in life. The fact is dropping your kids off at school and picking them at the end of the day is not enough to give them a proper education.

Realize first, that school is not only about classes for your child. It is a social institution where your child wants to feel s/he belongs. To you grades are paramount; to your child they may be second, third, or further down the list. Don't fight it. Work with it. Education is more than grades.

The following are seven tips to help your children do better in school.

1: Build Trust by Listening to Your Children:

Be receptive to what your children are saying. Too often parents think they are listening but they're really re-framing what their children are saying through their own lenses. They are offering solutions before really understanding the issues. You will find that if you remain receptive, non-judgmental, the real issue will eventually arise. Whether they realize it or not, your children are testing you. Little by little they will reveal more as trust is built.

For example: Your child says that s/he was offered drugs at school. Don't immediately go into a tirade about how drugs are bad. Your child most likely knows that. Instead ask, "How did that make you feel?" Then stay quiet, interested. You may discover that the problem is more complex than "Just say no to drugs." Maybe your child just wants to be accepted, or worse, is being bullied into taking drugs. Whatever the issue is, stay quiet until you fully understand. Then ask your child if s/he would like your input. Yes, ask. This helps to build trust.

It can be difficult for you as a parent to listen without judgment. A natural, loving response is to protect your children. But you cannot be with your children all day at school. The best you can do is arm them with confidence, high self-esteem, and trust that they can talk to you about anything. If your children do not trust that you can be calm and supportive with real issues, they will stop coming to you for help. Then they will seek support somewhere else.

2: Don't Compare Your Child to Other Children:

Your child is unique. Children learn at different rates. If your child is moving at a slow rate, don't blame or worry her about it. Your child has an untapped reserve of attributes and talents. Because s/he is not good at math, for example, does not mean s/he is stupid. Let your children know that they are important and that you love them for what they are and that you will continue to love them no matter how they do in school.

Then challenge them to be better. If they are getting 57% in math, encourage them to get 65% next time. Move slowly. Every percentage point higher is a big win. Celebrate it. Remember that even Einstein was considered a slow learner at times and had many bumpy roads throughout his school years.

3: Encourage Reading Stories:

This, by far, is the greatest skill any child could have to help her succeed in life. The most powerful lessons we carry with us into adulthood do not come from math, science, and English; they come from stories. Think about it. What do you remember better Algebra equations or the story, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"?

All cultures, planet wide, have used stories for thousands of years--written, pictorial, and acted out--as a means of transmitting important moral and cultural lessons between generations. Metaphorical prose promotes creative visualization and helps us to see patterns and interrelationships between different areas of life. In short, stories engage the mind; they shift it into gear and ready it to receive new information.

4: Read With Your Children:

Children are delighted to have stories read to them. But don't just read to them. Ask them questions as you go along. If your children ask you questions during the reading, wonderful! They are seeking to understand; they are engaged. Their comments and questions show that they are making connections either within the story or with the information they already know. This is the true essence of learning.

5: Have Your Children Read to You:

This will show you how much your children know about phonetics. This is great exercise for them. Helping them--in a caring, nurturing environment--to pronounce words properly and create better flow of the prose will reap great benefits in other areas of learning.

6: Encourage, Be Positive and Supportive:

Use positive reinforcing comments during the learning process with words like: "Wow! Great job! Good thinking. You should be proud of yourself. Incredible! Way to go! I can see you're really putting a lot of effort into this. You really rose to that challenge. I really enjoy listening to you read. Just look at the progress you've made! It's fun to work with you. I love you."

7: Be Patient:

Your children are going to make mistakes. Some things will come more quickly than others. It's important that you don't become angry or huffy. If you find yourself becoming impatient, take a break and engage in something fun for a while. Also, notice when your children have had enough. Experts say that new learning often requires more than 15 repetitions before it's absorbed. Keep positive and keep on keeping on!

In closing, the above 7 tips do take time and effort. It is time and effort well invested, however. Every child has unique and important gifts to offer the world. The most important gift you can give them is encouragement, time, and love.