In the high-pressure, high-stakes game of school it can be difficult to know which parenting strategies really promote learning. A successful experience in school is not only about report cards.
Ideally, your child will learn how to learn, retain information, think independently, ask questions and develop an increasing sense of competence. Here are some guidelines for making sure you start on the right foot and keep enthusiasm and momentum high.
In order to succeed at school, your child must be able to understand the work at hand rather than parrot learning. This will allow them to succeed beyond any expectation.
Key Values To Succeed At School
What to do?
- Focus on the process, not the product.
- Encourage kids to self-advocate.
- Keep a long-term perspective.
- Maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
- Love the child you have, not the child you wish you had.
What not to do?
- Worship grades.
- Encourage helplessness.
- Compare kids to one another.
- Love kids based on their performance.
Value the Process Over the Product
Children are naturally driven to learn and explore. They are at the beginning of their lifelong quest to understand and gain mastery of the world around them. As they reach out, fall and get back up again, they gain a heightened sense of mastery, competence and self-efficacy. Be careful not to undermine this processby devaluing the process of learning and replacing it with a mad dash for the end product.
Want your kid to lose interest in school?
Pay them for their A’s and worship at the altar of grades. If you’d instead like your kids to remain curious and hungry for mastery, here are some tips for re-orienting kids’ priorities.
- Keep report cards off social media and the refrigerator. We can tell our kids that we value learning all we want, but when we gush over grades and stick them to the refrigerator, we show them that what we value most are the grades. This raises the pressure for kids and teaches them that your love and approval is contingent on the content of their report card.
- Focus on the process they used to get that grade. Which study techniques worked for you, and which ones did not? What are you going to do differently next time?
- Look forward, not back. The best question parents can ask is: How are you going to use this experience to be better next time? This technique works particularly well for anxious and overly perfectionist kids, because they can get stuck in a negative feedback loop, obsessing wholly on the numbers and grades. Helping them shift their focus back to the process can alleviate that anxiety, particularly when we help them prioritize the aspects of learning they can control.
Value Goals Over Grades
One easy way to invest in process is to set goals, both individually and as a family. Try to do this at the beginning of each new term. Keep the discussion light and low-pressure.
This process isn’t about getting better grades, it’s about supporting learning as a family. Everyone (yes, that means parents, too) sets three short-term, achievable goals oriented around tasks and improvements under your control. For example, “I’m going to get all A’s this term” is too broad and too difficult to control. Instead, try “I’m going to ask for help in Maths more often,” “I will attend one extra
lesson a week,” or “I will practice my multiplication tables three extra times this month.”
One of those three goals should be a challenge. We can’t hope to convince our children to be emotionally and intellectually brave unless they see us do the same, so set some goals that get you out of your comfort zone. This is, after all, how we expand our cognitive potential and make new connections in our brains that can help us become stronger, smarter and more efficient learners.
Before you set new goals, take the time to assess how everyone did on past goals. Review these goals once a term. If you fail to achieve your goals talk about why, and what you plan to do differently next time. If you succeed, celebrate that achievement!
Maintain a Long-Term Perspective
Education and parenting are both long-haul endeavours, and improvements don’t happen on a daily basis.
- Don’t live in the daily emergency of this homework or this test. Instead, think about where you’d like your child to be in a year or five years in terms of competence and growth. Which is more important to you, that you deliver your child’s forgotten Math homework today or that she develops a strategy for not forgetting her Math homework tomorrow?
To sum up
Schooling has become highly competitive and focused on getting A’s rather than the process of understanding. It can be difficult as a parent to know which stratagies to implement and encourage learning. These tips will make sure you have a bit more of an understanding of where to start and help your child do well in school.