Helping kids keep up in school

Posted by Samantha on December 8, 2011 in Expectations, School, Trust |

I think the most important thing to remember when we wonder how to help our children academically, is that children thrive when we match our expectations of them, to what they can actually do.

This is so important, that I’m going to write it again:

Children flourish when our expectations and their achievements coincide.

Before I relaxed about my children’s academic achievement, I raced to a local dyslexia centre to enquire about how and when I might have my older child tested.  He was four years old.  I was worried because he was forming certain letters backwards when he wrote them.

Of course it’s not quite true to say that I was worried because he was forming the letters backwards.

I was worried because of two separate unhelpful actions I was taking.

First, I was comparing my child to other (fictitious) children who could already write without making these mistakes.  Comparing our children to other children is almost always unhelpful.  If we do this we’re at risk of becoming either worried or conceited.

Second, I was racing into my child’s future and deciding that he wouldn’t (or at least mightn’t) succeed in life, if he couldn’t form his letters correctly by now.

Sometimes, it just takes unearthing our crazier ideas to dislodge them.

It’s all too easy to set our standards for our children unreasonably high.  Placing unrealistic expectations on our children is now a national pastime.

Unfortunately, all this well-intentioned focus on improving and achieving simply creates a lot of pressure and discouragement.  And that pressure and discouragement can actually help create the lack of achievement of our children’s potential we’re all so frightened of.

Thankfully I learnt my lesson early and went back to trust.

I trust that my children will learn what they need to learn in their own time-frame.  I devote my energy to encouraging them in their efforts to absorb all that is on offer to them in school.

We can encourage our children in their school-work by paying attention to what they can already do and celebrating that success with them.

We can inspire them by sharing stories of our own academic successes and struggles, or of their past struggles and successes.

We can fill them with confidence by acknowledging their efforts and descriptively praising their work.

We can listen to them and empathise with them as they go about the sometimes difficult business of being in school today.

Whether our children are top of their class, right in the middle or struggling to keep up, there are a lot of pressures on children today that will take their toll without sufficient support.

And if any of this sounds contrived and like a lot of effort, it’s not meant to.  I’m really just advocating that we foster relationships with our children in which both we and they, will be nourished and grow.

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