By Joseph Sacks, LCSW
The following education tips for parents will not only improve your child’s education,
but will do wonders for his or her emotional health and the parent-child relationship, two things that are arguably even more important that education. I have developed these education tips for parents based on my Montessori and teaching experience, clinical experience, advice from my mentors and experience educating my own four boys.
Please bear in mind that the following represents a parenting ideal, and I don’t expect anyone to fulfill them perfectly. Therefore, have patience with yourself and try to implement new ideas gradually.
1. Ask the Right Questions
Instead of asking, “How will this help my child get into a good college,” ask, “What kind of learning or activity can my child do that he or she enjoys?” Asking the right questions is a prescription for success. People who enjoy what they do are ultimately much better at their work and, in addition, tend to lead happier and more fulfilling lives. You must help your child practice the valuable skill of seeking what they enjoy. Interest drives excellence. For a deeper discussion of this issue, click here.
2. Avoid Excessive Academic Pressure
We need to protect our children from the harmful effects of overly stringent academic competition. Excessive pressure to get good grades can actually make a student lose interest in the topic he or she is studying. The stress to achieve can cause your child to flee from his or her books as soon as the grade is in. Successful people tend to be those who love what they’re doing for its own sake, not for any external rewards. Therefore, although in most situations grades are inevitable, we need to avoid putting additional pressure on our children. Go easy on your child if he or she brings home B’s and C’s. Focus instead on getting him or her to enjoy some particular subject for its own sake, to relish the pure bliss of learning. This will ensure that your child becomes a lifelong learner, someone who pursues knowledge and achievement the rest of their lives.
One former student related that he was once looking through his old college books and he was amazed at how enjoyable it was to study them without the pressure of tests and papers. He felt it was such a shame that his whole education was lacking in that kind of learning. Pressure to get grades teaches children that the only thing that matters is what other people think about them rather than pride in their own learning. Furthermore parental pressure on children can lead to a host of emotional disorders, including anxiety, depression, and maladaptive perfectionism.
3. Be Supportive
Be supportive of your child and his or her interests. If they express enthusiasm for a particular topic or activity, encourage them to pursue it. That enthusiasm is like a small flame that needs to be nurtured until, eventually, it becomes a roaring fire of achievement. If your child experiences satisfaction and interest in one activity and pursues it successfully, that experience will be a model for future endeavors in other areas and will eventually lead to a successful adult career.
4. Give Snacks While Your Child is Working
Give delicious snacks to your child while he or she is actually doing his or her work. This creates a positive association between the pleasure of the treat and the homework. Your child thinks, “Candy, happy, homework, happy.” It gives them strength to complete their work. It’s too long to wait until after homework for a treat. If you are concerned about the health impact of providing treats, you can get sugar free and low fat snacks.
5. Give Rewards for More than Good Grades or Performance
Don’t give rewards only when your child gets good grades. Give rewards as often as you can and just because you love them. This will increase your child’s overall happiness and give them the fortitude to persevere in schoolwork.
6. Help With Schoolwork
Don’t be afraid to do schoolwork with your child, and help him or her as needed, even significantly. Don’t fear you are preventing your child from learning self-reliance. In fact, too much homework is given nowadays and it is unhealthy, teaching children to dislike learning and, further, that life is unpleasant. Therefore, we need to ease our children’s burden and help them when we can in a non-pressuring, non-critical way. For information on the pitfalls of homework, click here.
7. Sports Should Be Fun
Sports activities should be enjoyable, not bitterly competitive. There should be no pressure to win.
8. Give Your Child a Choice
Children should be given as much choice as possible as to what courses of study to choose, even at an early age. Let them pick the topics for their projects, what to read, what order to do their work and the like. When children have a say in their education, they will enjoy their studies and be more successful at them.
Out of all these education tips for parents, the most important is to teach children to enjoy learning. This will create a positive association between that enjoyment and study itself, helping your child become a self-motivated, lifelong learner.
Feel free to peruse the rest of my interesting blog, the specialties on this website, or download one of my informative free reports. If you are facing challenges in educating your child and would like more education tips for parents from a child psychotherapist in lower Manhattan, you may give me a call at 646-681-1707 for a free 15-minute consultation. I look forward to speaking with you!