Helping your Child Become a Better Student

As a  high school counselor, I often meet with parents who come to me seeking advice on how to help their children succeed in school. By the time the child is in high school, habits and behaviors are set. Maintaining positive behaviors is easier than trying to change negative behaviors. Setting positive behaviors early help in setting up academic success!

One of the first things I ask parents is “What are some of the things YOU do to ensure your child is a GREAT student?”. Raising a good student comes from a home that encourages education. Parents often leave the “educating” to the schools and teachers, but forget that learning needs to continue at home. Parents and schools are partners educating children.

There are three main areas I focus on when meeting with parents about their child’s academic success, they are:
1) Encouraging good study habits
2) Showing interest in his/her progress
3) Supporting academic success

Encourage good study habits

First off it is important for a parent to provide a quiet place free of noise and distractions where your student can study and do homework. The National Center for Educational Statistics identified "providing a place to study" as one of three family characteristics which were significantly related to student achievement.   Creating a “quiet time” every school night when all electronics are off, phones are silent, and the entire house is involved in a quiet activity helps in creating an environment that places importance on studying. 

A parent should also be aware of how much time their child spends on homework. Research says ¨“the important influence of homework on grades, a more focused parent involvement aimed at encouraging students to spend more time on homework might well lead indirectly to higher grades." As children study, parents should be involved also. They should show interest by asking their children student what topic(s) he/she is studying in a particular class.

Parents should also be an audience for their children—listen as he/she recites or shares what he/she is reading in school. Research on recently emigrated Southeastern-Asian families found that in almost half of the families studied, the parents read aloud to their children, either in English or their native language; students from those families earned significantly higher grades. Reading programs at your local library are great places to get the entire family involved in reading. Ask questions to help children clarify or think more deeply about what he/she is reading. Volunteer to help children prepare for tests by asking the questions he/she has written from lecture or textbook notes.

Ultimately, parents should be positive and give praise! When parents praise their children, they should be specific and concrete such that children would be able to learn which behaviors are good and could perform those more frequently. Words like “Great job studying for your tests! See, your grades have improved!” and “Thank you cleaning your room, you can spend some time on the computer if you want!”

Show Interest in His/Her Progress
Parents should consistently talk to their children about school. Parents who talk to their children about school, limit television watching, and communicate high expectations are increasing their children’s social capital so they will be more likely to succeed.

Some ways to start these conversations:
What did you do in school today?
What did you learn today?
What was your favorite activity in school today?
What did you find interesting in what you learned?
What did you understand best?
What questions do you still have about what you learned?
Is there someone at school you can ask for help?

Being aware of the child’s classes and his/her performance in each class is obviously important. High School and Beyond study cited that "Parents might well help their high school children achieve higher grades through monitoring their daily activities, by keeping close track of how they are doing in school, and by working closely with their students concerning planning for post-high school pursuits”.

Take a look at your student’s binder and/or backpack. Returned assignments, forms to be signed, outdated homework will go unattended to if this is overlooked. 

Parents should always find out who are their student’s friends . Parental awareness and monitoring of their child’s behavior has shown to positively affect a child’s welfare. Parents who know their children’s friends and activities, and who set age-appropriate limits have teens with lower rates of risky behaviors. Allow your children to bring their friends over to your house. Plan activities where your children can bring their friends. When allowing your children to visit with friends, ask to talk to their parents. Don’t hesitate to visit your children when they are out (mall, movies, etc.). When children know you are attentive and present, they have reason to ensure the act appropriately.

Communication with the teachers and counselor(s) regarding the child’s progress on a regular basis should be given priority. Student achievement goes up when parents show that school matters by getting involved. Open house, parent workshops, parent institute, school site council are all ways to get involved. Parents who communicate with teachers and get informed about school resources are also more likely to get necessary support for their children.

Support School Success
Parents should be aware of graduation and college requirements. Many school districts graduation requirements may be different from college and university entrance requirements. Knowing these requirements early may help students create realistic goals for their post-secondary endeavors.

Recognizing accomplishments on standardized tests, grades, quizzes, and etc. are a great motivation for children to continue their efforts towards academic success. Going out for some ice cream, a movie, or a few more bucks on the weekly allowance goes a long way. High school students still love to see their work on the fridge! On the flip side, when students are not performing to academic expectations, consequences should be put in place also. One of my favorite suggestions to parents is to take away electronics (computers, video games, cell phones). Hide the power cords, the controllers, whatever you need to do to make it “hurt”. Keep these cherished items until progress is shown. Parents are surprised how well this works!

Encouraging children to become involved in extracurricular activities is also important. Repeated records of high school students have shown that those students who become involved in extracurricular activities tend to be model students and seldom get involved in delinquency and crime. Studies show that students who are involved in extracurricular activities excel above their peers academically. Extracurriculars and community service are viewed favorably in college admissions and scholarships as well!