Strategies For School Success
Parents want their children to succeed in school, which can be very challenging for young students. Central to mastering Reading, Writing and Arithmetic are thinking processes referred to as “Executive Skills”. These are the skills that enable us to plan, set goals, manage time, solve problems and maintain attention to task, even when there are competing interests. These thinking processes develop in the frontal lobe gradually through the first two decades of life. Yet adults expect that children will use them to negotiate the demands of childhood – from regulating their behavior and emotions to behaving responsibly, to successfully completing chores and homework. It is easy to mistake a lack of a skill or a delay in the development of skill as a lack of motivation.
Current research supports the importance of self-control as a determinant of academic outcomes. It may be more important than other aspects of personality. It helps to regulate attention, emotion and behavior, which is essential for earning higher grades, and it is the bedrock upon which other skills develop. There are specific ways parents can assist their children in learning and practicing self-control, as well as other executive skills.
SCHEDULE, STRUCTURE, SUPERVISE, AND SUPPORT – Help your child make plans in advance to improve their performance on executive function tasks like “changing gears” and controlling responses to complete daily activities effectively. Work with them to develop routines for specific times of their school day like a “Morning Routine”, “After School Schedule” and a “Bedtime Routine”. Set simple goals that are broken down into manageable steps and walk them through to check for understanding. It may help to have a chart that serves as a visual cue. The plan could form the basis of a behavior contract attached to an incentive plan, for example, “I will bring my complete homework assignment pad home each day”, which could be reinforced with a “Mystery Motivator”. Supervise your child in the early stages and decrease the level of support over time as the child demonstrates independent behavior.
- Where a child does homework is important. It should be free of distractions and provide cues to stay on task.
- Provide a “Homework” folder or daily review their “Agenda” with them to plan the steps they will follow to complete their assignments.
- Set a start and stop time appropriate for each day. Schedule a short break if needed, with relaxation exercises in between. It may be helpful to post the schedule for a visual cue.
- Helpful aids include timers, alarms, calendars, highlighting keywords and operation signs in Math, asking your child to “Bounce Back” the directions to check for understanding.
- Your role as a parent is to clarify or reinterpret directions, demonstrate or give an example of a particular procedure or check for accuracy. Focus on brief and encouraging help.
GIVING DIRECTIONS – After you establish eye contact with your child, give brief statements that are polite but firm that you mean to follow through, made with eye contact. Resist efforts to create a power struggle intended to talk you out of the direction.
DECISION MAKING IS AN IMPORTANT SKILL TO PRACTICE. You might try the “KITE” approach:
- Know the problem
- Identify the choices/options to solve id
- Try the best one
- Evaluate the results
BULLYPROOF YOUR CHILD – Unfortunately hurtful teasing and bullying can interfere with the ability to learn. It is not the same as normal peer conflict and it can become more serious if it is ignored. Fear of bullies may stop children from asking for help, so maintain open communication with your child about peer relationships.