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Promoting School Success

By Tammy Cox, LMSW

School is already into full swing and even the busiest of parents can help their children succeed by having a better understanding of how children learn.

First of all recognize who the responsibility for homework belongs to. Don't let your fear of what teachers and other parents might think make you take too much responsibility for your child's homework. Ask yourself what that might be teaching your child. We can only learn to be responsible by taking responsibility.

Take an interest in their school work without taking charge. Let them know you are willing to help and it is their responsibility to let you know when they want your help. Then let them tell you what that help should look like. (Don't agree to something you don't want to do - like doing the work for them.) Allow lots of choices around homework. Realize that children are unique and may have different needs, strengths and learning styles.

Look at the long term goals of education. What are the school's goals? What are your goals? What are your child's goals? Don't make homework and grades so important that you and your child lose sight of the real purpose of education. Always remember that learning can and should be fun. Children, by nature, love to learn. It's usually when they think someone is trying to control them that they become resistent to learning. Do not get into power struggles with your child around homework. While you may be able to overpower him/her and get what you want in the short term, it is inevitible that you will pay a huge price in the long run. Avoid that high cost by going for cooperation and win-win solutions instead. Always go for what you want -- rather than having it your way.

Encouragement is the best motivator of all and it is important to understand that, while on the surface they may look the same, there is a big difference between encouragement and praise (appropriate vs inappropriate praise). Praise always has the intent, sometimes just below our awareness, to control and manipulate someone to keep doing what pleases us. Encouragement is intended to help a person to feel good about themselves. So, check out your intention!

Brainstorm with your child things that would help him/her be more successful in school. Here are some suggestions:
Encourage them to set up a homework calendar including daily assignments and long term projects, etc. This is a good way to help them develop organizational skills.

Encourage children to work 15 - 30 minutes per day on long term assignments. Breaking the assignment into small pieces makes it easier and helps them to pace themselves better.

Suggest they write one sentence for every page of a book read for book reports and term papers. Unnecessary sentences can always be edited out later.

If possible, allow children to use a computer for some of their writing assignments. It will make the work go faster, is usually more fun and develops valuable computer skills.

Do not pay or reward for grades. Such external motivation detracts from the enjoyment of the learning process. The sense of accomplishment and achievement are the best rewards. Any other reward is still a tool of manipulation and your children will be working for the rewards instead of what they can learn.

*Remember: It is most important that your child be internally motivated to learn. This more than anything else will insure school success.

This article is copyrighted by Tammy Cox, 2002

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