Top 10 Tips to Set Your Kids Up for Success in School and Life

Are you overwhelmed by all the pressure on parenting today? Do you want to know what really helps your kids be successful in school and life?

High School Students

Everyone has their own version of what success looks like and their idea of success may change over time. Generally, people associate success with someone who is able to achieve their goals or has achieved a certain status.

Success may include being happy or giving back to the world. Going to college or tech school may help someone achieve success but it does not guarantee it. There are many paths to a successful life.

For the purpose of this article raising successful kids means raising kids who can navigate a changing world, take responsibility for their actions, bounce back from setbacks , and positively contribute to the world.

Here are 10 things to focus on to set your kids up for success.

1. Model Learning

You are your child’s first teacher. Even when your children begin school, it is important that you model learning to your kids. We all know how children can quickly repeat something inappropriate we say in exasperation, but they pick up on the good behaviors we model as well. (Even though it often feels like they are not really listening to us anyway.)

As children progress through school, they tend to associate learning with something that is done between the walls of a classroom. Be the bridge between what your kids learn in school and real world applications. Your attitude towards learning will impact your child. The more your child associates school with lifelong learning the more enjoyable the school years will be for both you and your kids.

2. Give them Choice

Once your child is school-age, they have very little choice in what they learn at school. School curriculums are packed and there is a lot of time spent preparing for standardized tests. We all learn better and retain that information when we are interested in the topic or skill.

Life is full of choices and children need practice making them. Young children can choose between different outfits or what book they want you to read to them. As children get older they can choose when and where to complete their schoolwork, what activities they want to try, and help choose where to go on vacation.

Children need time, space, and materials to explore their interests. They need to discover their strengths and weaknesses, and what they like or don’t like. So many people graduate from college and decide they don’t want to go into the field they earned their degree in. With the cost of college so high today, that is hard to swallow. Let them make choices as they grow so they are more likely to figure out what they want to do so they are more likely to choose degree or job that fits them.

Family Read-Aloud

3. Have a Family Read Aloud Time

Most parents know the value of reading aloud to their children when they are younger. Many parents stop this practice when their children learn to read on their own. I want to encourage you to continue this practice for as long as you can.

Even though as a trained teacher I knew the value of reading aloud to children, I didn’t make it a priority in our busy schedule once my older kids learned to read on their own.

Read-Alouds at home became standard practice with my younger kids and the difference in their vocabulary development and language usage was astonishing! Read-Alouds are by far more powerful and effective at developing vocabulary, than any vocabulary program I have ever used. Plus it is by far more enjoyable!

Reading books together also promotes family bonds and opens up discussions on all kinds of topics. It helps develop awareness and compassion for people whose struggles are different from their own, exposes them to new authors and genres and encourages them to continue reading on their own.

Audiobooks are a great way to accomplish this on the road or while you eat a meal or snack.

Family Travel

4. Travel

When I taught in public school, the students who were the most engaged in class were the students who had a connection to the topic being studied outside of class. For many students, this connection came from travel. Students who had visited the Grand Canyon or collected rocks with a relative were far more interested in learning about rocks than students who had no prior connection.

Engaged students are learning. There is no better way to learn geography than being immersed in different landscapes and cultures. Visiting places such as museums and parks allows you to model lifelong learning. Museums have displays and models that enhance understanding of various topics studied in school that we are unable to provide in the classroom.

You never know what will spark an interest in your child!

5. Train Children to Contribute to Household Tasks

There are so many benefits to teaching your children how to help with household tasks. Completing chores helps develop a work ethic and allows kids to develop confidence as they master those skills and contribute to the family. They learn responsibility and how to work through tasks that are not necessarily fun to do. When they move out they have many life skills already under their belt and the transition to adulthood will be smoother.

Cooking, cleaning, basic household maintenance and pet care are great places to start. Even toddlers can help put away their toys. It is much easier to grow up with the expectation that chores are a part of life than to suddenly have to figure it out when they graduate and move out.

6. Encourage a Growth Mindset

Learning is a process. Learning requires struggling through something and then figuring it out. Too often, parents interfere with the learning process. Many parents are only concerned about their child earning an A in a class instead of actually learning something.

Here are ways to encourage a growth mindset:

  • Embrace failure. Making mistakes is a normal part of learning. Encourage your child to try again. This builds competence, perseverance, and grit.
  • Instead of praising your child’s performance focus your encouragement on their effort. Yes, they need to know the difference between excellence and poor quality work but only focusing on that hinders their growth.
  • Don’t micromanage your child from the sidelines. Nobody wants to feel like they always need to be performing.
  • Read biographies of inventors. They teach children that struggle is a normal part of life and shows them how people overcome challenges and create amazing things.
  • Encourage self-evaluation. Kids generally know where they are succeeding and where they need to improve. Let them know you are there to help if needed.

Growth is where the magic happens!

7. Give Them Time

Don’t over-schedule your children. Kids need time to figure out their talents, passions and what they like or dislike. They need time to ponder, play and process information. They need time to relax and rejuvenate just like the rest of us. Provide large blocks of uninterrupted time for your children.

8. Allow Your Child to Have Consequences

One of the most detrimental behaviors a parent can do for a child in school is interfere with reasonable consequences. We all want what is best for our children and it can be painful as a parent when you receive a call that your child was misbehaving or their school work was not up to par.

If the school assigns a reasonable consequence, such as a detention, for behavior or incomplete school work, let your child serve the detention. Follow up with a discussion with your child on how they can try to do better next time. Teachers generally also have this discussion with students as well. When the child knows that both the teacher and the parents are on the same page the behavior typically resolves itself fairly quickly. Do not bash the teacher or the school. If you continually try to put blame elsewhere, you will constantly be at school because you are sending your child mixed messages about appropriate behavior.

Let your children learn there are consequences for their actions while they are young and the consequences are small. Students need to learn to take ownership for their behavior. Dealing with unreasonable parents is also a major reason why teachers leave the profession. It makes their job nearly impossible. Unfortunately, some parents continue this behavior into their child’s college years.

9. Encourage Independence

Provide opportunities for your child to be independent from a young age. Kids that have more independence tend to function better in the classroom. They ask for help when they need it and can work without being constantly directed.

As children’s schedules became more packed with adult-led activities it has crowded out time and opportunity for practicing independence. This is showing up in the classroom and in mental health.

Here are some ways to encourage independence:

  • Put your child in charge of school paperwork. Make it their responsibility to empty backpacks and give you any paperwork that you need to sign.
  • Let them be in charge of packing school lunches.
  • If your child is struggling in a class encourage them to meet with their teacher and ask for help.
  • Make them in charge of their schoolwork. If they don’t finish their work, allow consequences to occur.
  • Let them be bored. They will figure out something to do eventually if you don’t fill that time for them.
  • Children need to learn how to deal with hurt feelings and disappointment. Don’t interfere with every unpleasant interaction your child encounters.

10. Limit Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities can be an excellent way for your kids to explore their interests, try something new and develop skills. The key here is to be intentional on how much time your kids are spending on these activities. You don’t want to be busy every moment of the day and it can crowd out time for developing other life skills and spending time together as a family.

Raising kids is no small task. Being intentional about how you spend time with your kids and encouraging growth and independence at home and school will help set your children up for success.

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