By Cheri Fuller
With school about to start all over the country, moms and dads are out buying school supplies, backpacks, and new clothes. In the midst of the flurry of preparations, let me encourage you to think about and put into action the follow ideas which will help your kids learn and achieve more this year and every year, regardless of what kind of school they attend:
1. Build a close, loving relationship with your kids. The #1 resource you as a parent can provide to raise motivated kids who like to learn is a trusting, positive relationship with them. That relationship forms the core of their self-worth and influences their choice of friends, decisions and the ability to learn. Time spent together, open communication, and behavior limits all help build a loving relationship between parents and kids.
2. Build on your child's strengths. All kids need to experience some success, which builds confidence in their abilities. Nurture specific talents, like music, art, or swimming. Capitalize on learning strengths (like using a tape recorder to practice math facts for the "Listener/Talker," or a big white board for your active learner to teach the information to someone the night before the test). By building on strengths and helping kids bypass weaknesses you'll go a long way toward helping them achieve in school. (See my book Talkers, Watchers & Doers for scores of practical ideas on doing this.)
3. Encourage instead of criticize. Research shows that kids who are motivated and do well in the classroom have parents who encourage them by saying positive words that focus on their efforts and progress. Rather than criticize or pressure, if your child is unsuccessful in some undertaking, test, or report card, talk about it, encourage him to learn from it and try again, and you'll find he puts forth more effort on his tasks.
4. Have great expectations. When we have high hopes and realistic expectations our kids can meet, it fuels their motivation. Avoid letting your child be negatively labeled by the school or a teacher. Even with big obstacles, if a child is believed in and supported and given strategies to best utilize his learning difference, he can accomplish amazing things. (Raising Motivated Kids and Talkers, Watchers & Doers can help you do this).
5. Make the most of your role model. Parents role modeling is a powerful motivator because the major, #1 way kids learn is by imitation. So one of the best ways to keep your kids interested in school is to let them see you being an active learner. The daily example you set in other ways, like being persevering and optimistic about your challenges, will help your kids develop the determination to keep going on difficult math problems or other hard tasks despite frustrations.
6. Read aloud as a family. After 3rd grade all school subjects require language and reading skills in some way, so what you do at home to help your child become a fluent reader is key. Just as an athlete's physical muscles must be exercised persistently to develop strength for the game, kids reading "muscles" need to be exercised at home by hearing parents read aloud and having a variety of great reading resources at home that taps into their center of learning excitement. Just because children learn to read, don't stop reading aloud with them. It's vital for developing great language skills and keeping them "hooked on books."
7. Avoid overscheduling. We're raising a country of stressed-out kids whose schedules are packed from morning to night. Almost half of all students today report stress symptoms like headaches and short tempers and those as young as nine are having anxiety attacks,* all of which interfere with their learning. Children need downtime, rest and sleep because this is when the brain creates the connections and long-term memory needed in the learning process. Give your kids some unstructured time to play, daydream, and make their own fun. Consider having one (instead of 3 or 4) extracurricular activities per child each school semester. And START NOW to get them in bed a little earlier each night (and get up earlier) so when the first week of school starts, they will be alert and ready to learn.
8. Build good relationships with teachers. Whatever kind of school your child attends, open communication lines with teachers by: writing a note of thanks for something that helped your child, by attending school functions, and being involved. Even working moms and dads can contribute something to making a better educational environment (making materials, going on a field trip, having lunch once a month at school with your child, using your skills or expertise). When there's a problem, schedule a conference and work as a team to solve it.
9. Avoid media overload. The average child spends almost 5 ½ hours a day with TV, radio, video games or the Internet, the equivalent of a 38-hour work week and three times more than they're reading. Media overload shortens attention span, creates passive learners, and stunts language skills. Have the school week be a "no TV/movie/video game zone." Limit these activities to weekends (and in moderation) and you'll be surprised at your kids improvement in the classroom.
10. Be a homework consultant. Don't do your kids homework for them which deprives them of ownership and motivation. Instead, help them set doable goals, break large tasks into smaller steps, and have a daily study time and place with the materials needed for homework and projects. Be interested in the content of what they're learning (not just grades) and encourage self-reliance and responsibility, and you'll be empowering an "I can do it" attitude about homework.
By applying these strategies, it will help you raise "school saavy kids" who'll get the most out of their classroom experiences, have a much more positive attitude toward learning and be on the road to becoming all they're meant to be.
(*reported by CDC, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
Copyright 2006 Cheri Fuller. Adapted from the three books in Cheri Fuller's series for parents and teachers entitled SCHOOL SAAVY KIDS. The series includes: Talkers, Watchers, & Doers: Unlocking Your Child's Learning Potential; Raising Motivated Kids; and School Starts at Home, all published by NavPress/Pinon and available on amazon.com or by ordering from your local bookstore.
Use only by permission of author. Visit www.cherifuller.com for more resources and encouragement for parents.
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