Jul | 2013
Setting your child up for success and preventing likely crises this school year
Every child has a unique set of school-related challenges. And a particular child’s challenges may have less to do with grades than with socializing. But whatever the challenges are, a pre-planned strategy that is well thought out and agreed upon by you and your child before school starts is the way to go if you want to maximize success.
This does not mean you are carving this year’s strategic plan into stone, as you must flexibly adapt to unforeseen circumstances. But it does mean you are going into this year with an updated and improved sense of what does and does not work for your child. And one of the worst mistakes a parent can make is letting their child do a hobby or sport and without being clear about what academic standards must be met in order for that child to continue doing that extracurricular activity. By clarifying your academic expectations before your child begins their next round of activities gives you more leverage and authority when your child’s academic progress is flagging.
Specifically, you want to minimize the chances that what stressed your child out last year will again derail them this time around. For example, if getting them to do their math homework turned into a bitter conflict, then do take the following steps:
-Reflect on what factors seemed to generate or exacerbate the problem. Examples might include…
–a time of day problem (doing math after dinner did not work because they were then too tired),
–an attitudinal problem (a hatred of math or some aspect of it)
–a mismatch in how they learn best versus how they were taught math (you could discuss this with this year’s teacher and form an early alliance with them)
And remember, most often there are multiple factors that contribute to a problem. Make sure to recruit the input of last year’s teacher as well as your child as you identify the list of contributing factors.
–Next, ask your child their opinion of why they thought this was such a challenging area. Remember, even young children can have surprisingly good insight. And even if they have really low insight, your chance of developing a strategic plan they buy into is directly correlated to what degree they feel you included them in fact gathering and planning processes.
–Then develop an improved approach to prevent the problem from re-occurring thus year. This improved approach should build on your child’s strengths.
–Finally, establish performance based goals for this year. While including a concrete sense of the goal such as “having a B or better” makes sense, I do not believe goals should be limited to grade based goals. Why? Grades are often either inflated (easy teachers) or not a true measure of achievement or effort. Even if your child gets an “A, if math is easy, maybe the challenge you really want them to conquer is their being more willing to push themselves harder to learn a higher level of math.
In the end, you must ask yourself what set of goals, strategies, and attitudes will come together into a plan that will help your child fill in their skill gaps and help them accelerate their strengths. You want them to more smoothly handle the stressors that last year threw them off track.
If your child has a consistent and perplexing problem in one academic (math, reading, focusing, spelling, etc etc.) or social functioning area (being constantly bullied), you should consult a credible child professional who can within a very short time help you and your child learn techniques for preventing or terminating this problem.
By making a pre-school plan, your child will be setup for success instead of failure. And you will have a much more enjoyable year. Having that plan posted somewhere like in their room will help them and you stay focused and highlight that this plan is serious.
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