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5 ways parents can help kids succeed at school

Getting involved in and out of the classroom can boost kids’ self-confidence

5 ways parents can help kids succeed at school

In the whirlwind of work, household chores, social commitments, and everything else that sucks up your time, it's incredibly hard to take an active role in your child's education. But it’s important to realize two things: 1) without parental involvement, kids are far less likely to live up to their potential, and 2) with encouragement and caring, even kids from the toughest homes can thrive. So, just imagine what your own children can do.


Here are 5 ways to engage your children and prime them for optimum learning and success in school.


1. Brush up on your own reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. Perhaps the best way to guarantee that your kids succeed in school is to review their homework with them each evening.


"It is not at all uncommon for parents to have to re-learn entire subjects to help their children succeed," says H&R Block-CEO-turned-inner-city-teacher Tom Bloch. "Help them grasp a concept they're struggling with. Remind yourself that nothing else – no TV show, no housework, nothing – is more important than your children's academic and character development."


2. Invest in more of the intangibles and less of the tangibles for your children. "I have noticed that even low-income families send their children to school in the most expensive Nike shoes. What this proves to me is that materialism is rampant in society – not just in high-income families, but in all families. Kids need to learn to discover more value in enrichment activities and less value in status symbols,” says Bloch, author of Stand for the Best: What I Learned after Leaving My Job as CEO of H&R Block to Become a Teacher and Founder of an Inner City Charter School (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, 2008).


On holidays and birthdays, choose to give your children life experiences in addition to material objects. Take a trip to a historic site within a day's drive. Or buy a musical instrument for your child along with the weekly lessons. One day he or she will be grateful for the memories and useful skills you will have helped create.


3. Don't expect teachers to raise your child. Some parents expect schools to do all the work in educating and socializing their children. But this is both irresponsible and impossible. It must be a dual effort. When parents instill respect, responsibility, caring, and compassion in their children, teachers can enforce these values.

READ MORE: 4 ways your playroom can make your child a better student


Some parents who are disengaged from their children's education also expect their kids to be passed along to the next grade regardless of their academic achievement. This kind of parental mindset transcends all socio-economic class boundaries.


"As a parent, it is your responsibility to teach your child to work hard and live according to a strong code of ethics," asserts Bloch. "Otherwise, it's like trying to build a house without first building a foundation."


4. Support teacher decisions. It's perfectly natural for a parent's pride to be wounded when his or her child fails in some way in school. And, unfortunately, it's not uncommon for parents to react angrily toward the school when their children are punished for misbehavior. But this kind of reaction is almost always a big mistake and does children no favors, says Bloch.


If you suspect a teacher is treating your child unfairly, then by all means sit in on a class or schedule a conference to get to the bottom of things. "Children must learn to follow rules and to accept the consequences for not doing so," says Bloch. "And by supporting a teacher's fair decision, you create a united front that your child is far more likely to respect."


5. Commit to volunteer. The phrase is shop-worn by now, but it really does take a village to raise a child. Try your best to be not just a parent to your own child, but part of the "village" for all the children. Schools desperately need involved, committed, and dedicated parents. If you have a special skill that can be shared with your child and his or her school family, consider volunteering.


"Parental apathy and even hostility are real concerns in today's schools," says Bloch. "The truth is, it's very difficult for teachers to make children successful without the support of parents at home. Even in affluent households, where parents can afford private schools and tutors, kids are still kids. They need the involvement and commitment of their parents in order to develop the skills and values necessary to succeed in school and in life. It's a principle that goes beyond socio-economics.

"Still, the primary message of my book is one of hope," he adds. "Because underprivileged kids are proving they can overcome terrible conditions, those of us born into more  the Best are rising to find their greatness. If they can do it, your kids can too.