As part of my Education Reformation, The Never-Give-Up Initiative, I have mentioned the equal balance of responsibility among students, teachers, and parents. The greatest obstacle children face in their achievement of educational success is the misconception that teachers will teach them everything they need to know. Teachers must teach their content area, but they cannot just pour that information into students’ brains. Students have to be prepared to receive the knowledge, and they must have the desire to apply that information.
That’s where parents’ roles are crucial. Instead of expecting that teachers can somehow miraculously get a child to listen, when he hasn’t listened to his parents for 5-10 years, parents can be proactive in creating the best scenario for all involved. It’s never too late to teach and enforce these necessary skills/traits.
Let me start by saying I’m not the perfect parent, by any means. This list comes more from my experiences as a teacher and what my students have told me, shown me, and not shown me, than from my “perfect” parenting skills. As a matter of fact, I used to be one of those parents who had a hard time saying no to my children. I was a parent who didn’t follow through on directives, who felt guilty for taking away a beloved toy or privilege when my child was disrespectful. But I’m not that parent any longer. I have seen the characteristics of successful students, and the mistakes I was making as a parent were going to cripple my children academically. I have been making changes as a parent, and I invite and encourage other parents to do the same.
I’ve broken up the list into easier, more digestible posts: The first post concentrates on what to teach for learning-ready behavior (academic and social).
In order for students to be successful in school, here are some characteristics parents can teach their children to improve their odds for success:
- Teach them to listen: We have so many children in school who are not really listening to their teachers or peers. They are the students who say to their teachers, “You didn’t tell us to do that.” Or “You never went over that.” Granted, there are times when teachers do indeed forget to announce an assignment or go over information, but when other students did get the information, it’s a sure indication that it’s the listener’s error, not the teacher’s. Teaching them to listen, to focus on the speaker’s words, will guarantee that students will get the information they need.
- Teach them to follow directions: The common denominator of successful students is their ability to follow directions. This skill goes hand in hand with listening. If a student does not listen, he will not know how to complete the task. When teaching children to follow directions, make sure they can follow oral and written directions. Some children listen better than they read, or vice versa, but they should be able to do both well.
- Teach them how to talk to adults: Children who cannot talk to adults will have a hard time in school. These are the students who cannot ask their teachers for help because they are too shy or feel weird talking to adults. Teachers are not mind readers; they don’t know if a student is struggling until the student says something.
- Teach them to respect adults: There are so many students who are disrespectful to adults; it’s truly shocking. Students who cannot use polite words, who yell or snap at adults as if they are peers, or who play the “whatever” card with their teachers will not get far. Teachers generally don’t tolerate that kind of disrespect, which makes it harder for those students to get the attention they need.
- Teach them to respect peers: Having positive relationships in school impacts students’ ability to function in school. Drama is caused by lack of respect, plain and simple. Honestly, students who are nasty to other students may appear like they have control, but no one really likes them. Teaching children how to respect peers will get those children to school, help them to have great relationships, and help them benefit from collaboration, a necessary learning tool. I tell my children they don’t have to be friends with everyone, but they must be respectful to everyone. Life in school is much easier when students have respect for each other.
- Teach them to be kind without being pushovers: Doing this right can be tricky, but it is absolutely necessary that children are kind, without being an easy target for abuse. Students who can be kind to others without being “used” by less studious students have a strength and maturity that will serve them well, which will then extend beyond high school.
- Teach them to apologize sincerely: A heart-felt apology goes a long way. And let’s face it, everyone makes errors in judgment every once in a while. Students who know how to apologize to teachers and their peers have better relationships with them. It may be hard to apologize, but students who can do it sincerely are trusted, even after an error in judgment. Students who avoid apologies are not trusted. Students who are not trusted start to feel defeated and hopeless, which leads to worse decisions. A sincere apology can stop the descent before it starts.
- Teach them to tell the truth: If there is one thing that can destroy a student’s standing with teachers and peers, it is being a liar. Children start out lying because they don’t want to lose their parents’ love; if not corrected—with love—it will quickly escalate to lying to friends and teachers to get approval. Sadly, once a student is marked as a liar, he or she will lose trust and respect, which leads down the same path as a student who can’t apologize sincerely.
- Teach them to stand up for themselves: Obviously, not all children will be respectful and kind to each other; it will be necessary, at some point, for a child to stand his or her ground. Parents need to have conversations with their children about when it will be necessary to stand up to a bully, and then give them the tools, words, and confidence to say enough is enough.
- Teach them to stand up for others: Teaching this can be tricky as well. How do we teach our children to stand up for someone else without turning into bullies themselves? There is a fine line, but it’s necessary to know where that line is. Students who are not afraid to protect a weaker person have the makings of true leaders. We want our children to be leaders, not followers, and this skill will ensure they stay on that path.
Part 2 concentrates on the ethical characteristics of successful students.
Part 3 concentrates on knowledge and skills students may or may not receive in school, so it is essential that parents make sure children have a solid foundation in these categories.
What do you think of this list so far? Do you have any strategies to teach these skills/traits in your children?