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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Helping Children Succeed in School (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

Every parent I know wants their child to have a good education.  They understand that having a solid education is a path to success.  The implications of getting a good education are numerous. To name a few: people tend to have better jobs with higher earning potential, engage in lower rates of criminal behavior, better outcomes in relationships, strong critical thinking skills, greater independence and self-reliance, etc. However, many parents struggle with how to foster this value in their children in an effective way. 

If you have a child who loves to learning for the sake of learning, welcomes challenges, and breezes through school, then you are probably practicing some of the strategies that will be covered in this article.  This type of child is someone who has intrinsic motivation to learn. On the other hand, if your child has difficulty getting homework done without being asked several times, loses assignments frequently, waits until the last minute to do the homework, prefers to skip classes than attend them, or has any other school-related problems, then this child probably needs extrinsic motivation to learn. This simply means that the child needs extra support to help them succeed in school.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and the strategies discussed here will surely be helpful!

In order to help children succeed in school, parents need to first understand the relationship between behavior and academics.  From my experiences working in the schools, it is clear that many parents seem to compartmentalize behaviors and academics into two separate categories with little or no relation to each other. Therefore, they view them as being mutually exclusive. For example, a parent may often say "My child is very smart. It's their behaviors."  This may very well be true, but what they do not fully understand is that there is a strong link between behavior and academic performance. It is imperative that we bridge the gap between these two ideas in order to optimize our children's educational potential.

It is clear from studies that those children who succeed in school tend to behave well in class, follow directions, accept criticism, get along with their classmates, attend classes regularly, do their assignments regularly, etc. Hence, students with positive social skills have a greater chance of doing well academically.  This link is very much intertwined. Moreover, parents can do many things to support their children succeed in school!

 10 Tips to Help Children Succeed in School:

1.   In a positive way, make sure your child can follow directions at home and in the community.

2.  Get involved in your child’s education. A good starting point is to ask them about their day in school in a specific way.  Opening questions do not have to be related to academics. If a good rapport is established with your child, the conversation will lead to academics.

Bad example: “How was school today?” (The universal response being “fine” or “good”). Not effective way to communicate!

Good examples: “What did you learn in Math class today?” “What did you play in recess?”  “Did Johnny have fun at his birthday party?”

3. Set up time for homework that works with your family’s schedule. Make sure the area is clean and not distracting.  It is very difficult to work in a cluttered space! Also, have a rule about doing homework first and then doing other leisure activities.  Rushing through homework so you can do other activities is not to be encouraged.

4.  Help with homework. If you do not feel comfortable helping with fractions, physics, and the like, you can help by encouraging them through positive reinforcement like “You are working so hard on that problem. I am proud of you!” The parent can also do activities that model positive learning or organizational skills like reading a book or balancing their checkbook. Sorry, watching television does not count!

5.  Make regular contact with teachers via emails, notes, and phone calls about your child’s progress. However, keep in mind the school policy about how and when to contact teachers since they are busy people trying to teach so many things to so many students.

6. Attend parent/teacher conferences. Be prepared for these meetings and ask questions.

7. Work with teachers to solve school problems. They are your allies, not adversaries. Go in with the mindset that teachers are like parents to your child (Refer to my article: “Your Child’s Third Parent”: Seek professional help if warranted.

8. Volunteer in the class or school. It does not have to be a lot of your time. Even once a month for an hour will be enough for you to be a known quantity with your child’s teachers, peers, and other staff.  If you can give more time than this, even better! This will send the message that you care and will support your child. When others see that the parent is the child’s strongest advocate, it will help your child in school.

9.  Attend special school events. If your child is in it, try your best to attend or send someone as a representative. Taking pictures and videos are a great way to share memories.
10.  Most importantly, set a positive tone in your home about education! For example, homework is not a chore that you rush through so you can do more fun things like play or watch television. This attaches a negative connotation to homework. However, homework should take precedence and trump other leisure activities. A balanced approach is the best approach!

I will leave you with a song my son learned in school when he was a kindergartner. He used to sing it all the time around the house! We have it posted on our wall as a reminder. I feel this sets a very positive tone for learning!
Knowledge is Power

“Knowledge is Power.
I know what I know.
The more you learn, the more you will grow.
If you get an education, you’ll be taking a stand.
‘Cause Knowledge is Power.
So grab it all you can!
So grab it all you can!”


  1. Another stellar entry! I loved the bad examples vs. good examples. It's concrete suggestions such as these that are very useful to parents.

  2. Anonymous: I'm glad this information is helpful! Thank you for your feedback!