How parents can help their children do well at school
It's a question that parents and educationalists have grappled with for many years. If we're being honest, nobody has yet come up with the definitive answer.
Many have offered strategies, many of which have worked very well in practice. For example, the notion of 'parent helpers' has now become fairly standard in many primary schools, and increasingly in the secondary sector too. Most schools will have 'Parent Engagement' weaved into their improvement plans in one way or another.
But getting 'involved' in their children's education doesn't necessarily mean that parents have to be physically in the school building helping out.
One of the best ways that parents can help their children to do well at school is to show support.
By support we don't just mean showing an interest, asking how the school day went or asking what homework a child has been set.
By support we don't just mean spending time reading with a young child, attending parents' evenings or making sure a child has a suitable space at home to revise for exams.
All of the above, of course, are all helpful - but support also means nurturing a child's love of learning and cultivating the mind set within a child which will help them to achieve their potential at school.
Potential can be developed and success at school stems from having the right attitude. A child that has the correct mind set and attitude is a student that that the edge. What a child brings to the classroom is every bit as important as what they are taught in the classroom.
Nature can be nurtured. And this is one of the best ways that parents can support their children at school.
Teach your child the importance of failure
It's really all about instilling the message that 'If at first you don't succeed, try and try again.' This is a great way to develop resilience within children. A child that has little fear of failure is best positioned to do well at school.
So, how can parents support this mind set? Well, teaching a child to play chess is one way. Chess, after all, is a game of skill and not patience. It requires logic, a strategy and problem solving - all vital skills.
Most adults take it for granted that to be successful you need to overcome obstacles and work hard, but to a child this won't necessarily be obvious. Sharing experiences of failures and how difficulties were overcome so that children begin to understand the idea of a 'learning curve' being completely natural and important is very useful.
Make learning a positive activity
When learning something is seen as a chore or something that we 'don't like' we pull up the shutters and create a mental block that makes it much, much more difficult to succeed.
Positivity and being in the right frame of mind make it easier to stick at something that we find difficult. If a child enjoys learning something new, anything - they are pre-programmed to succeed at it.
Let children follow their passions
Very few people in life are excellent at everything. In fact, you could argue that it isn't important or even really possible to be so. It is better to be excellent at a few things. Therefore, if a child displays a real interest in a certain topic or subject at school, make a big thing out of it.
Parents often worry too much about the subjects their children are not so good at school. This becomes the focus and it often heaps more pressure on the child and further embeds their negativity towards a subject. In essence, the problems get worse and much harder to solve.
By focusing on the positives and helping to develop a child's passion in a subject, they will learn how to transfer this connection with learning to other subjects as well.
Making learning relevant
We've all said it, 'I don't see the point in this subject... How is this going to help me get a job? I'm not going to need it in the future.'
Try not to reinforce this idea. Instead, point out the relevance of subjects day-to-day. Whether this is helping to promoting division when cutting slices of cake, or reading maps when travelling in the car, or using Google Translate to find useful phrases when abroad - school subjects are around us every day, so highlight this fact.
Children often don't see the point of something if they don't think it's relevant. Don't let them think this way!
Motivate by consequence, not by punishment
Using threats to try to motivate children into doing something is a tactic that most parents do from time to time. But motivation by punishment can send out the wrong message - that using threats is the way to solve problems. Furthermore, trying to motivate with the threat of punishment can damage self-esteem and it rarely helps children to learn valuable lessons.
Motivation by consequences, on the other hand, sends out a positive message that problems can be solved effectively and it can be good for self-esteem. It also helps children to learn self-control and self-discipline.
A child's motivation can be nurtured and this is something that can be used to great effect in their education.