How to help your child thrive in school...and what to do if he/she is not

Every parent hopes their child will become a gold star student at school. While every child learns and develops in a different capacity, there are qualities you can foster at home to help your child thrive at school.

Remember your child is like a sponge, give them positive things to absorb

Starting from a young age, you are your child’s hero or heroine. The superhero who serves as their first role model. Like the old adage “Monkey see, monkey do” your child learns from what they see you do. Just by going about your day, you can instill positive behavior and an atmosphere for learning in your child. Not only will your child watch what you do, but also listen to what you say. While you have your child at home, pour lots of love and positivity into their lives. Saying “I love you” and expressing love will live with them throughout a lifetime. Encouraging your child’s learning and exploration of life will provide positive reinforcement that is greatly needed during the early development years. How can you express love, belief, and encouragement for your child today?

Read with your child

It’s possible to learn through programs on TV, but watching TV is passive learning while reading is active learning. Active learning engages the brain more. In addition to making sure your child is reading (or being read to), help to make sure your child understands. As your child ages, reading comprehension should be key. Teach them to make sure they understand what they’ve just read before moving on to the next paragraph. You can also encourage comprehension by teaching them to take notes or create outlines while reading. Not only does this help reading comprehension in general, but serves as good practice for college!

Go over homework to make sure your child understands it

Go over instructions to ensure they are clear and your child understands what is expected. Once complete, check to make sure it was completed properly or if there is something your child needs more help with. It’s also very helpful if your child knows you are available to assistance while they are completing the task.

Build a relationship with your child’s teacher

Regularly communicating with your child’s teacher in person, by phone, or email lets your the teacher know you not only support your child, but also support the teacher. With open communication on a regular basis, the teacher is more likely to give feedback on how your child is doing in class, provide constructive suggestions, and give insight on your child’s strengths and weaknesses.

Healthy balanced meals and adequate sleep

Being hungry, thirsty, or tired can severely impact your child’s ability to focus and retain information. Planning ahead helps for time-starved parents when it comes to meals, as well as ensuring your child is in bed at a decent time. Child thrive with structure, so setting a routine for playtime, homework, food, and bedtime each day is key in helping your child thrive!

Allow time for physical activity

While many schools focus on more academic learning, physical activity or “recess” may be put on the back burner. This greatly affects children with a lot of energy who can begin to feel “trapped” sitting at a desk simply doing school work. A feeling of being trapped can turn into behavioral disturbances and “acting out”, which no teach or parent wants to see or hear. Time to play during school is key, but after-school playtime, sports, and other physical activities can allow your child to release any pent up energy.

  • Help develop your child’s social skills

According to a study by Vanderbilt University, there are the top 10 skills we should be teaching children to prepare them for success:

1. Listen to others

2. Follow the steps

3. Follow the rules

4. Ignore distractions

5. Ask for help

6. Take turns when you talk

7. Get along with others

8. Stay calm with others

9. Be responsible for your behavior

10. Do nice things for others

    We can teach these social skills at home by being a model for our kids who are watching, whether you realize it or not. When parents exhibit behaviors such as yelling at strangers in the car, arguing with family members, gossiping, or being mean to neighbors, it shows the child what is acceptable and what is not. Modeling positive social behavior will help your child grow into an adult able to thrive in any situation. In addition to modeling, you can help your child by NOT labeling them, particularly if you view them as shy. Instead teach them that everyone gets nervous sometimes, remind them of times where they were comfortable and having fun in a similar situation, and do a little role playing to help them know how to react in different social situations.

Giving your child time to practice their social skills is also beneficial. Practice time may include playdates with friends outside of the family or enrolling them in sports and other team-based activities. According to a study by the University of Illinois, here are some signs to look out for to see if your child needs more assistance from you in developing social skills:

Lacks at least one or two close mutual friends

Has trouble losing or winning gracefully

Doesn't show empathy when others are hurt or rejected

Acts bossy or insists on own way a lot

Can't seem to start or maintain a conversation

Uses a louder voice than most children

Seems constantly ignored or victimized by other children or constantly teases or annoys other children

Teach them to be independent thinkers

Of course, you want to give your child an advantage and be a guiding force in their life. But there can become a point where children become dependent on the guidance of others-peers, parents, teachers, etc. You can teach your child to think for themselves by allowing them the opportunity to figure things out. Yes, that may seem harsh. But allowing your child to think about a problem and determine appropriate solutions on their own before coming to Mommy or Daddy for help can strengthen their brains and critical thinking skills. When your child has made an attempt to come up with a solution, you can provide positive reinforcement for the attempt and help them with a solution (if necessary).

Don’t let summers go to waste

Summer break is an exciting time for many children. For many, it can mean sleeping in late, watching tv, or possibly summer camp. But don’t forget academics! It’s important to not let your child forget everything he/she has learned throughout the school year. That would be such a waste! Even if it’s not sitting down to re-read their history book (boring, right?), challenge your child’s brain by engaging in activities such as learning a new strategy game like chess, learning a new language (Duolingo is a free app!), or learning to follow directions by trying new recipes every week. The opportunities are endless, and many times can be very inexpensive.

Spend time talking with your child about their day and how they feel about it

Open communication allows your child to feel safe in sharing with you no matter what. When a child feels like he/she can share without judgment, this allows you to be informed and proactive instead of reactive. Encourage your child to express any emotions that occurred throughout the day, be it happiness, excitement, anxiety, or disappointment. When you support your child’s expression each day, it will encourage them to deal with daily occurrences in a positive manner. It also helps you notice any changes. Drastic behavior changes can indicate something is disturbing them-bullying, peer pressure, other life occurrences are affecting them

Spending time talking with your child can also help you see what interests them. Once you know your child’s interest, you can begin incorporating that into their day, whether it be getting books or watching documentaries on the subject, visiting museums, or creating something related to the interest. Embracing your child’s passion can help them become more self-motivated learners all around.

Your child’s ability to thrive all begins at home. Modeling positive behaviors and positive reinforcement are all key in ensuring success, not only at school but in life. Try out the tips above and let us know how they work for your child. And if you’re not seeing the results you would like, here’s the most important tip to remember: BE ADAPTIVE. You can read as many tips and tricks on parenting as you’d like. But realize every child is different and what works for one may not be effective for another. Be open to trying new methods, routines, or programs if something is not working for your child. Communicate with your child and the other adults in his/her life for additional insight on what may be more effective.

We want to hear what you do to help your kids at school or what tips you plan to try. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and let us know!

-Solid Foundation Christian Academy Staff