Learning comes easy for some kids. But for others, it seems like a never-ending uphill battle. Either way, one thing is certain: Getting good grades can be a significant source of stress and anxiety. As a parent, you’ll naturally be rooting for your kids to succeed academically, but it’s important to keep in mind that pushing too hard may only make an already emotional situation even worse.
The best thing you can do is to know when to help—and when to stay out of your child’s way. Knowing the difference will go a long way toward supporting his or her academic success. Here are five things you can do to help your child along.
- Encourage curiosity.
Learning is all about being curious. It’s nearly impossible to be successful in academia without the drive to know more or to find the answers to burning questions. The good news is, you can encourage this quality in your kids.
Start by engaging your kids in conversations about the world. What catches their eye? What have they read that piques their interest? But don’t just listen. It’s equally important to share your own interests with them. Talk to them about the fascinating article you read in National Geographic or share what you learned while playing the piano. Let them see that learning can be fun and that it makes you happy.
- Get to know their teachers.
It’s important to build relationships with the professionals who educate your children. This helps to support your child as well as his teachers. It’s a good idea to start this early, perhaps by writing a letter to the teacher about what motivates your child and sharing possible areas of difficulty. And by all means, avoid criticizing teachers in front of your children. Undermining their authority in the classroom does not lead to positive outcomes.
- Focus on effort over grades.
More than anything else, your children need your support and encouragement during their academic years. If your child works exceptionally hard on a project but still doesn’t earn high marks, let him know that you’re proud of his work ethic.
Keep in mind that when you constantly raise the bar for your child, this can result in frustration and feelings of inadequacy. Instead, be sure to recognize your child’s effort, and then have a discussion about what needs to be adjusted to improve his grades moving forward.
- Give them a proper place to work.
Children need a work environment that’s conducive to learning and concentration. Parked at the dining room table with the TV in sight probably isn’t the best way to accomplish this.
A better approach is to make sure your child has a dedicated working space that’s free of distractions and well organized with her materials at arm’s reach. Try to establish a routine by encouraging your child to do her homework at the same time and the same place every day. And it’s probably a good idea to declare this time and space a phone-free zone as well.
- And then let them work.
Now that your children are settled into a routine with the tools they need – let them work. It’s extremely important for your kids to understand that their homework is their responsibility—not yours.
Ideally, you should be available to help if they hit an impasse, but they need to make the cognitive leaps and connections on their own. It’s not something you can do for them. If you feel that you must help, it’s okay to point out mistakes – but let your child figure out how to fix them.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street Columbus, OH 43206 or by phone at 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.