In this series of blogs, I am writing about different things that help kids succeed in school. I am particularly focusing on things that parents can do. Previously I posted blogs on the importance of healthy food and exercise, and on the importance of getting enough sleep. Today I will discuss your relationship with your child as one of the foundations for their success in school.
For many families, school and homework can become a source of frustration and conflict. Getting your child to do homework each day can be a daunting task, especially when you are competing with TV, video games, and texting. In an attempt to motivate their kids to do homework, parents sometimes resort to punishment and other coercive strategies. Unfortunately this is often counter productive. When you attempt to control your child’s behavior through coercive methods, your relationship with your child will often erode. And a good relationship with your child is the most powerful leverage you have.
There are some things you can do to inspire your child to make responsible choices regarding her homework and school in general, without resorting to coercion. Ultimately, you want your child to take responsibility for her own learning process. Being successful in school, and mastering new skills and knowledge would ideally be its own reward.
- Kids are often tired when they come home from school. Rather than going straight to homework, spend some time relaxing with your child, eating a snack, going for a walk outside, or playing in the park or the backyard. Use this time to connect with your child, rather than spend time watching TV or playing video games.
- It is perfectly okay to limit access to TV, video games, and other leisure activities until homework has been completed. This is not a punishment, rather, you can explain that you too have to fulfill your responsibilities at work before you get paid each month, and that the money has to be spent on bills and food before it can be spent on leisure. Emphasize, however, that it is your child’s choice whether or not he will complete his homework, and whether or not he will get access to TV, video games, or other leisure activities.
- Leave discipline for what happens at school to the school. If your child is having difficulties at school, and disciplinary action is being taken, support the school’s decision, but avoid punishing your child at home. Instead, listen to your child’s side of the story of what happened, and talk through the choices your child made. Talk about how in the future she can make better choices.
- Offer encouragement and praise when your child makes good choices regarding schoolwork. When you see your child working hard, or persisting when he is working on a challenging task, praise his effort and persistence.
- Leave the responsibility for completing schoolwork with your child, but be present as a resource. Offer encouragement for responsible choices, and explain that getting good grades are the consequences of hard work and taking responsibility. Offer guidance and support, but work towards your child becoming the owner of her own learning process.
- If your child has difficulty organizing his time, or if he becomes overwhelmed with work, collaborate with your child to come up with a system to organize his time. Check this blogpost by Lindsay Bell for great tips on how to get your child more organized.
- It may also be that your child is having difficulty with schoolwork because of a learning disability. In that case it would be important to consult with a professional to determine how to best help your child.
Building and maintaining a positive and supportive relationship with your child is a difficult task, and requires a delicate balance between boundaries and closeness. Check out this page for more information about a compassionate approach to discipline. For more tips on building, improving, and maintaining a close relationship with your child, check out these tips as well.