How do I help my child become a better student?

Some students are intrinsically motivated and need little coaxing to find academic success.  Others require more encouragement and management.  If you find yourself asking, "How do I help my child become a better student?" this article will offer some helpful tips.

  1. Talk with your child: The most important step in the process is communication.  Ask you child everyday if they have homework.  Make it a habit to discuss the school day.  Ask you child what they are learning in each subject.  Ask them to explain the concepts that they are learning.  Doing so will reinforce their understanding.  Additionally, if they are unable to explain the concepts that they are learning, they are either not paying attention or the teacher is not teaching.  Either case will require intervention on your part to redress.  Try not to make the experience a painful one; this academic discussion time is a great opportunity to explain the value of knowledge and connect real world applications building an overall appreciation for and interest in education.
  2. Monitor when necessary: If you find that you cannot have honest and open discussions with your child because they are either habitually deceptive or your schedule is not conducive to such conversations, you will have to monitor their daily activities in other ways.  Optimally, your child's teachers will have classroom websites, but if they do not, request that emails are sent daily.  If the teacher is resistant to sending emails, then you can have your child keep an assignment notebook.  Don't waste your money on a leather planner with fancy grid paper: a simple spiral notebook should fill the gap.  Have your student write homework assignments on a sheet of paper each day and have the teacher sign off on it.  Check your child's assignments every day and make sure that they are completing them.  If possible, read the assignments to ensure that they are completing each assignment with care.  If they are not, request more effort from them.  Establish a system of incentives and consequences that works well in your situation.
  3. Focus on the positive: In my experience, most 6-12th grade students in America are not pushed hard enough; however, I have seen a few cases where, in my opinion, a parent pushes their child too hard.  The long term effects of demanding that your child meets unrealistic standards may be worse than a couple of Bs.  So while it is important that we demand the most from our children because we want the best for our children, let us never frown upon improvement. 
  4. Keep in contact: Ultimately, if a student is determined to fail, they will have their way; however, the best line of defense against an apathetic student is a concerned teacher and an involved parent.  If these two maintain communication on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis, the child's wiggle room for supplying you with misinformation.  This provides you with more opportunities to intervene and is recommended if your child needs frequent intervention. 

Raising a child is a high stakes situation, so monitoring and intervening in your child's academics may be necessary, but remember that the best students are rewarded intrinsically.  The best way to motivate your child is by fostering a love of learning within them.  This will improve your child's academic drive far more than most marking period consequences devised by frustrated parents.  As much as you may want your child to succeed academically, they are ultimately in the driver seat.  Give them good directions and hope that they reach their destination safely.