Parenting and Education – How to help your child be successful in school

19 Dec

What is our role as parents in terms of helping our children be successful in school?  There are probably many different views on this subject.  The first and most important thing to know about parenting and education is that EVERY child is DIFFERENT.  What one child needs from their parents in this regard may be different from what another child needs so as parents you can’t just take one view and use this as your “philosophy.”  Here are some possible parenting styles (this is not an inclusive list, obviously, just a few of the problem situations) when it comes to education:

1.  Hands-off parent:  This style is where the parent puts it on the child to take charge of their success in school.  This is especially true for older children and high school age children.  Parents assume that it is the child’s responsibility.  They rationalize that in order to learn to be successful, the child needs to make mistakes and these mistakes will be self-correcting.  If the child doesn’t turn in homework, they will get F’s, if the child doesn’t study, they will get bad grades – these bad grades will then motivate the child (either on their own or because the parent punishes the child for the bad grades) and so the child will self-correct and get the needed work done.  Parents who adopt this style were often parented this way or were able to successful in school on their own and don’t understand why a child can’t figure it out on their own.  They rationalize that they aren’t going to be around to hold their hand later in life, so it is time they learned to swim on their own.

2.  Hovering – Helicopter parent:  This style is where the parent is very obsessed with the child’s school work.  When the child comes home from school, they want to see every assignment they child has, they make the child do their work right away, the child often feels stressed about school and is an overachiever and is very upset about getting bad grades.  The parent may assign extra work, extra worksheets that the child has to do above and beyond the work that the school assigns.

3.  Outsourcing Parent:  This style is where a parent knows their child is struggling in one or more subjects and they feel they should do something, so they hire a tutor.  They feel that this is what is sufficient, even if it doesn’t solve the problem.  The tutor might suggest the parent get involved more, check on the student work, work hands on with the student, but the outsourcing parent is often very busy and only has time for their child to do their 1-2 hours a week with the tutor but not get involved themselves on a regular basis to help their child be successful.  This is not saying that all parents who hire a tutor are “outsourcing parents,” just that some parents choose outsourcing, think this is all they need to do.

As I said, every child is different.  Here are some examples of different kinds of students your child might be:

1.  Independent, successful learner – if you have one of these, you should feel lucky – but also, don’t assume that all your children will be the same.  Independent successful learners are able to go to class, write down their assignments, take good notes, get their homework done on time, study independently and successfully for tests, score well on tests, and not need any outside support from anyone else to be successful in school.

2.  Partial Independent, successful learner – This is a student like number one who is able to be successful in most classes but might struggle in a particular class due to its subject matter being difficult for them or because a particular teacher is not a good teacher / grades or tests very unfairly when this student has always had good fair teachers in the past.

3.  Students with ADD/ ADHD / Executive Function struggles:  These students can be very bright but lack the ability to stay focused, remember to turn in homework, write down things like when tests are, take good notes, stay organized, or know how to study effectively for a test.

4.  Students with learning disabilities in a particular subject:  These students might be very bright in most subjects but have a learning struggle in an area that makes learning something in that subject very difficult, examples include math or reading (reading comprehension, of course transcends all subjects since you need to understand what you read to be able to do all subject areas).

5.  Students with slow processing speed:  These students process things very slowly and therefore, everything you teach them and every assignment they do (test they take) requires twice as long as a regular student.  It is very difficult for students with a moderate disability in processing speed to keep up with a class that is all working at a faster pace.

So, what is our responsibility as parents when it comes to education?

Here are three things to keep in mind:

1.  You are responsible for knowing what type of child you have / what type of learner he or she is and if he or she is not an independent, successful learner – then it is your responsibility as a parent to help your child and make adjustments.

2.  You are responsible for finding a school (to the best of your ability, some places have more options than others, although sometimes we are not always aware of our options) that best matches your child’s academic needs – and remember that your child WILL make new friends, so “staying with friends” and failing is NOT a better option than moving to a new school that better academically fits your child.

3.  You are responsible for monitoring their grades as they go so they don’t reach a point where it is too late to recover.

4.  You are responsible for communication with their teachers.  Getting a good teacher is the best gift your child can get to do well in school.  Even struggling students can do well in a subject with a good teacher, however, students will get bad teachers.  Students will get teachers who test on things they don’t teach, grade students harshly, explain things poorly, and the end result will be a bad grade for your child.  However, it is your responsibility to mitigate this as much as possible.  Butt in, push the teacher, demand that your child gets the best he or she can get.  Call conferences, if needed, get the higher up involved.    Don’t assume it is your child and the teacher is always right.

5.  If your child has learning struggles, get him or her an official diagnosis, then get him a 504 plan (or IEP if needed), read up on it, find out what he needs – then make sure it is adhered to.  It is your responsibility to advocate for your child.

6.  If your child is not an independent learner or for example has issues with executive functioning / knowing how to study, etc.  then it is your responsibility to help him or her learn to study.  Find out when tests are, email teachers to figure out how you will know in advance when tests will be given, then help him organize his notes, then quiz him and don’t stop until he is getting all the answers right.  Teach him that this is how you do well in school:  you ask yourself the questions on the information without looking at the answers until you can answer every question without looking and get 100%, then you are ready for the test.  For math, google the topic and look for practice problems that have answer sheets and have her sit and do the problems and then grade them (to study math, you must do problems).

Your child is 14, 15, 16, 17, or 18 – this is the time to be VERY involved in their academics so that they learn HOW to be successful in school, so they learn the skills needed to be the independent, successful learner for when they go to college or start a career and you are not there – this is not the time for you to be hands off.



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