Education

Helping kids succeed: What can parents and others do?

It’s hard to know for sure just what it takes to raise children who grow up to be successful adults. Is it a good education and other enrichment opportunities? Maybe it’s an environment that promotes learning or makes them feel connected to school and their community? Or maybe it’s a parenting style that includes clear, reasonable limits? Helping kids succeed: What can parents and others do?

It’s hard to know for sure just what it takes to raise children who grow up to be successful adults. Is it a good education and other enrichment opportunities? Maybe it’s an environment that promotes learning or makes them feel connected to school and their community? Or maybe it’s a parenting style that includes clear, reasonable limits?

Family role

It’s important to realize the significance and power of the family in developing successful kids. Families are the first and most important place where children learn life skills. Families are traditionally a great source of support and go beyond a formal education in teaching children how to get along in the world. The chances that a child will grow up to be successful are greatly increased by a family that has a shared value system, communicates openly, has clear behavior expectations and makes education a priority.

Barbara Coloroso, an author and expert on parenting, teaching and conflict resolution refers to the “backbone family.” These families don’t demand respect; they demonstrate and teach it. Members are more likely to be treated as equals, in an atmosphere of consistency, firmness and fairness. Through love, acceptance and encouragement, children in backbone families are recognized and valued, accepted for who they are, and encouraged to be more than they think they can be. These children also receive lots of smiles, hugs and humor. Competency and cooperation are modeled and encouraged. Parenting style

Another important factor in raising successful children is parenting style. Parents need to establish guidelines, have reasonable limits, and set clear expectations and consequences. When those limits and guidelines are crossed, the children should already be aware that consequences will be forthcoming. These must be reasonable and consistent with the level of the infraction. They should not be in the form of punishment, but should serve as a way for the children to learn actions have consequences. Children should learn to be assertive, self-regulated and cooperative as well as socially responsible. Those who learn to accept responsibility for themselves are better equipped to succeed. Schools

There also is evidence that families can improve their children’s academic performance. Parents who engage in their children’s learning have children who do better in school, stay in school longer and pursue higher education. They also provide an environment that encourages learning, and praise effort or progress rather than emphasizing smartness” or high performance. Kids need to know that making mistakes is part of learning.

Educators also say that children of all ages need to be exposed to a world beyond tests and homework. This includes sports, volunteer work, hobbies and other extracurricular activities. Confidence and enthusiasm gained from such things are critical in keeping kids motivated in school.
* This column and others dealing with a wide range of “Raising Healthy Kids” topics can be found online at www.hennepin.us and doing a key word search for “Raising Healthy Kids.”

(Sidebar 1)
How parents can contribute to their children’s learning

• Set a good example. • Review school work sent home and look for teacher comments. • Make homework a top priority. • Provide resources at home for reading and learning. • Ask questions about your child’s classes. • Call teachers if there is a problem. • Support school rules and goals. • Pay attention to peer pressure. Do your child’s friends also value effort in school? • Provide routine family meals, bed times and study areas. • Avoid over-scheduling after-school activities. • Read to your child at all ages. • Limit TV and video time. • Praise effort, no

July 7, 2006
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