Back to school means a fresh start—not just for your child, but for you as well. Regardless of... more
Before you have a child, you think you know what kind of parent you’re going to be. I thought... more
Back to school means back to a routine. That shouldn’t be code for ‘back to chaos’. Take the time... more
Have you heard of GNP? No, not Gross National Product but Gender Neutral Parenting. For most, the... more
Back to school means a fresh start—not just for your child, but for you as well. Regardless of last year’s successes (or challenges), every new school year is a chance to begin again.
Numerous studies of students—from Kindergarten through to grade 12—found that parental involvement is consistently associated with higher student achievement outcomes across grades, standardized test scores, and overall educational outcomes. Simply speaking, an engaged parent can make all the difference between a child who simply attends school because they’re required to, versus one who is motivated to be the best they can be, not just in school but in life.
Don’t know where to start? No matter their age, here are four ways parents can help their children succeed in school.
1. Help your child get organized.
2. Get in the know.
3. Partner with your child’s school
4. Support your child.
Before you have a child, you think you know what kind of parent you’re going to be. I thought I’d be relaxed and go with the flow—turned out my daughter thrived on structure. I imagined we’d spend hours playing with each other’s hair. Nuh-uh. That kid even looks at a brush and she screams.
Here’s where I really went wrong though: I thought I was going to let her be a blank slate, let her fall and fail and make mistakes and learn from them. But from the moment she was born, without really realizing it, I’ve been inadvertently preventing her from hearing her own inner voice that tells her to, ‘Go for it’.
Every time she tried to take a bigger step in the playground, my frown deepened in fear. Every time she got innocently curious and ran off to see something, I’d yell, ‘Watch out,’ ‘Slow down,’ or ‘Be careful.’
Much as I hate parenting terms, I see now that I’ve been a helicopter parent. Since my hovering has been mostly around sports and physical challenges, maybe I don’t quite fit the stereotype. But in at least one area, the propeller blades on my helicopter are working overtime.
There’s a running joke among my friends that I never have to worry about the dreaded mid-day call from school. You know, that one where they’re calling to say your child fell doing something crazy in the playground? My daughter is so cautious she won’t attempt more than the first two monkey bars. And I’ve secretly been thrilled. So long as her timidity never held her back socially, I’ve been quite content not to have that extra worry on top of the usual ordinary parenting concerns.
But the more I started watching her at play, the more I started to hear my words echoing back at me: ‘Watch out, slow down, be careful.’
When my husband taught her to ride a bike, he said, ‘Stay straight, look ahead, you can do it.’ It suddenly hit me that I was always telling her what not to do. I’m not saying I didn’t offer encouragement, or appreciate her success, but I may have reduced the accomplishment’s validation because I was too busy worrying to enjoy the moment and celebrate it with her.
I really became aware of all this recently during a hike with friends and their particularly adventurous sons. The kids were practically flying down the trail and I felt myself start to warn her to slow down. They were running down hills, and my mouth opened to caution her again. It was like an out of body experience—or a really bad after-school special—and I suddenly just got it. She was listening to her voice, trusting herself to take a chance, and I was about to ruin it. I braced myself, smiled, and watched with pride as she began to really explore her surroundings, climbing and moving with ease and certainty.
Since that day, I’ve been watching my beautiful, independent child really take chances, and while I may occasionally tense up when she decides to scale the playground wall, goes a little fast on her scooter, or finally, confidently reaches for that third monkey bar, I will force myself not to stand in her way.
I may never stop being a helicopter parent, but I will do everything I can to make sure she’s in the pilot seat.
Image of monkey bars from Shutterstock.
We’ve assembled a select group of experts on parenting topics that affect all ages and stages of a child’s development. From sibling rivalry, sleep deprivation to nutrition, our savvy experts have your parenting dilemmas covered. (We know they’ve helped us with ours.) Let us know if they are helping you with your dilemmas by commenting.