Parenting

Back to School Success Tips


Q. With the school year just beginning, what can we do as parents to help make this a successful year for our teen-ager and our family?

A. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to make this a successful school year, not just for your teen, but for the whole family as well.

In general, the first thing to keep in mind is that parents and teens have a very different notion about the purpose of school. Here's how I believe it works: For parents, the perception is that we work all day, the kids don't. School is their job. Therefore, they should get good grades, just as we want to do well on our jobs.

The perception of teen-agers is quite different. In their view, school is rarely more than their social world, interrupted by six or seven classes a day.

So, here's a list of the top seven things parents can do to make this a successful school year:

Create an environment at home that models a love of learning. How often have your children seen you reading? Heard you talking about something you have learned? Discussed ideas and issues with them? While these are things to have started from Day One with your child, you can still implement them in your home now.

In whatever way works for you, make sure your teen knows that while grades are vitally important, your child is more important to you than his grades. That's the No. 1 thing I hear from kids when I ask them what gets in the way of talking about school with their parents.

This one is so simple yet so profound. Ask them their opinion on important issues of the day. You may be surprised to find out what kind of brain they have in there.

Make sure there is nothing blocking your teen-ager from learning. One example of a block could be a learning or information processing disorder, or something like attention deficit disorder. Many teen-agers I work with who have difficulty with school have undiagnosed ADD or ADHD.

Another block to learning can be the use of alcohol and drugs. Part of the process of drug abuse is that kids begin to lose interest in things that were once important to them. If they are drunk or high in school, they do not want to learn and they can't.

Know the names and philosophies of the following people who influence your child's life: the principal, assistant principals, the guidance counselor and, most important, the teachers.

If a discussion about grades has become a battleground during a particular time of day, declare that time off-limits for grade talk, unless the teen brings it up. For some families that time is the car ride home, or right after school. For many it's the dinner table. Many families have reported better digestion after declaring dinner time off-limits to grade talk.

Once you have done all this, simply put them in charge of school. Make them responsible for their performance at school. This may be particularly difficult, because this can be one of those situations where things may get worse before they get better. This is especially true if you have been pushing and pushing over the past few years. There may be a decline in performance as they learn how to be in charge of themselves with school.

Wanting your children to excel in school is a good and natural thing. There comes a time, however, when the ball is simply in their court, and it's up to them. I think the most important thing for parents to remember is that school eventually needs to become more important to them than it is to you.

For more tips and tools for a great school year, check out parenting coach and syndicated parenting columnist Jeff Herring's Back to School Success Tips


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