I’m always fascinated by stories of ultra-competitive preschool and grammar school admissions in New York City’s private schools. Parents jockey for a spot on a waiting list while pregnant, pay consultants to prepare a preschooler for the “interview,” pay untold amounts of tuition, and act as if getting into the right school is a matter of life or death.
A study published several years ago in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility found that parental involvement and attitudes toward education have greater bearing on academic achievement than school-controlled factors, like teacher morale and programming. So what can you do as a parent to help your child achieve school success? Take these five steps.
1. Cultivate trust with your child.
The study showed that children who felt trusted by their parents performed better than children who did not. The child’s perception of trust is a good indicator of the quality of the parent-child bond and overall relationship. Kids who enjoy close relationships with their parents have more confidence and are able to succeed.
Children whose parents asked more frequently about school assignments and activities, checked homework more regularly, and participated in parent meetings had kids who excelled. What’s so magical about going to PTA meetings and checking math problems? It signals to the child that you think these things are important, increasing the chances that they’ll also care enough to give their best effort.
3. Be a life-long learner yourself.
Kids whose parents are excited about learning are conditioned to see learning as a privilege and a natural part of life. Otherwise, learning looks like a childhood burden. Create a culture in your home where learning is for everyone and being smart is cool.
Kids whose parents are excited about learning are conditioned to see learning as a privilege and a natural part of life.
4. Help your child develop self-discipline.
As early as the toddler years, parents can train children to be attentive to instruction and to follow through on tasks. Helping them learn to clean their rooms or do the dinner dishes isn’t just about getting the housework done. It’s about helping them learn to take care of business in all areas of life, including the classroom.
5. Communicate respect for your child’s teachers and school leaders.
If you speak about your child’s teachers or principals in a negative way, you’ll make it harder for your child to respect and learn from them. If you express confidence in your child’s teachers, you encourage your child to view them positively and to want to perform well in their classes. When you have concerns about your school’s staff, discuss it wisely, if at all, around your child.
What are your child’s biggest challenges in school?