The most valuable teacher in a child's life is often his or her parent. Parents play a daily role in guiding students through school -- they set goals and attitudes, and they give their children the confidence they need to succeed.
Like any person, parents can make mistakes, and these mistakes are especially likely to happen in the busy first weeks of school. As you prepare for the new school year, here are three common mistakes to know and avoid:
1. Misunderstanding what teachers expect of you
Every teacher in your child's educational career will have different expectations of you, the parent. Your student's sixth grade instructor may ask your child to take complete responsibility for their homework, with no parental assistance. Their seventh grade teacher may prefer that parents take an active role in homework and projects, assisting as necessary and ensuring the work is complete.
On the first day of school, consider asking your student's new teacher how you can help. You will likely receive insight into how that particular instructor runs his or her classroom, as well as what your role will be during the school year. Follow the teacher's guidance, and periodically touch base to ensure you are doing all you can to assist your child's academic growth -- and to support your student's instructor.
2. Overemphasizing how difficult school is
The learning process is not always easy. However, most classrooms are designed to reward children who demonstrate effort and a positive mindset. If your student begins third grade convinced that they will struggle, there may be little reason for your child to aim for success.
This is why it is so important to foster a positive outlook where school is concerned. Your student will be more likely to try harder and to work smarter if he or she believes that success is possible.
You can accomplish this aim by building off previous grades. Highlight your child's academic strengths, as well as any recent improvements. It can also be helpful to avoid telling your student that each grade is harder than the last. Instead, rephrase each new grade as an opportunity to grow even smarter. Make success feel as attainable as possible, so you can give your child the confidence they need to succeed.
3. Failing to encourage independent goal setting
If you were to stop setting and monitoring goals with your student, what would happen? Would your child's grades drop? How would his or her priorities change? One of the most important things a student can learn is how to learn, and parents play a central role in this process.
If you have not yet done so, encourage your child to set their own goals, and to determine the best strategy for achieving them. This can help students understand the value in not just good grades, but in the steps that lead to them. Ultimately, your child should want to succeed for him or herself, rather than for an outside person or reward. That type of motivation can be carried throughout an entire educational career, from kindergarten to graduate school.