Part 1 concentrates on what to teach for learning-ready behavior (academic and social).
Part 2 concentrates on the ethical characteristics of successful students.
11. Teach them to be proactive: Students who are proactive are preparing themselves for school work before a teacher assigns it: They ask clarifying questions before they leave school; they notify the teacher of a planned absence and ask for the work they will miss; and they read more than the assigned chapters in a book, knowing they have projects or essays due the following week. These students will never fall behind or get overwhelmed because they anticipate the issues that may arise.
12. Teach them the necessity of working hard: A new trend in student achievement (according to students and parents) seems to be that even minimal effort should be rewarded with an A. If students want A’s they need to be willing to put in the hard work necessary to get that A. It is unfortunate that parents are supporting this trend because it leads to the even worse trend of students only caring about the grade, not the learning. (I’m not a big fan of grades for this reason.) Students who don’t value working hard will be susceptible to cheating, which will lead to more severe consequences as they get older.
13. Teach them the importance of a job well done: Students who only get the job done turn in shoddy work. Students who want to turn in a job well done will make sure every element of a project or essay has been checked and rechecked. These students look up words and grammar rules before turning in an essay. They work on a number of drafts and turn in a final essay, rather than turning in a first-attempt rough draft. Students who received a D- in a class got the job done (they passed), but they certainly didn’t learn anything well. We are seeing the consequences outside of school from those students who think just getting the job done is what’s important. Employers are noticing the lack of care going into job applications; colleges are appalled by the errors in application essays.
14. Teach them the necessity of waiting their turn: Taking turns is certainly something parents try to teach their children from an early age, but how does this lead to success in school? Students who know when it’s their turn to talk don’t waste time waiting and thinking about their questions; these students are listening to the lecture, writing down notes, and listening for the answer to questions that are formulating in their minds. At the appropriate moment, these students ask the questions that were not answered. Also, students who wait their turn don’t walk away impatiently when their needs are not instantly met by a teacher who is talking to another student. Students who wait their turn will always have an opportunity to succeed.
15. Teach them patience: Obviously, waiting their turn takes patience, but patience is needed when students are learning new concepts, especially with students who normally achieve success easily. Children who are extremely bright might give up on a class if they don’t get an A on everything they turn in; patience will help them stick with the class, concept, or skill. Students also need patience to deal with personalities (teachers and peers) with whom they may not get along. There will be personality conflicts; students will dislike teachers; teachers will dislike students; however, this fact should never impede the learning process. Patience will help students deal with these conflicts so they can be successful wherever they are.
16. Teach them to pick good friends: Instilling in children the desire to be popular is one of the worst things a parent can do. Popularity can lead to more problems than necessary (more on this in a future post). Instead, teach children to look for a few friends who are loyal and true, who have the same interests and morals, and who have the same academic goals. Not only is trying to be friends with everyone impossible, it is also the perfect way for a child to never know who he or she truly is. This is not to be confused with being kind and respectful to peers. They should still do that, but having true friendships should be limited to those who have the same goals. They will sharpen each other and challenge each other to become better and more successful.
17. Teach them accountability: Students who are not afraid to answer for something they have done are more likely to make better decisions as they get older. When students say, “Yes. I copied his homework instead of doing it myself,” they are looking at the action honestly and allowing themselves to pay a consequence that will help them make better decisions in the future. If students cannot admit to wrongdoing for small things, and think they got away with it, the trouble they can cause and get into will intensify exponentially as they get older. Eventually, the lack of accountability will catch up with them.
18. Teach them responsibility: Students need to know what their responsibilities are. So many students have skewed beliefs about their own responsibilities, especially in education. Students not only need to show up to class, they need to come prepared with all materials for that class; they need to be rested and ready to learn; and they need to find a way to connect with the material the teacher presents. Successful students know this is their responsibility; students who struggle sit passively in class, when they choose to show up, waiting for the teacher to entertain them and give them a reason to care.
19. Teach them thankfulness: Without gratitude, children will never truly know happiness. Teaching children to be happy with what they have instead of always wanting something more will give them security and strength in who they are. That’s not to say children shouldn’t dream of a glorious future; of course we want them to dream big, but we don’t want them to take for granted the beautiful things they already have. Being thankful for little things will give them an appreciation for all of life. Students who are thankful find success in every step they make towards fulfilling their goals; it serves to motivate them to stay focused on the positive, instead of being deterred by negative thoughts. Happiness is found throughout the journey, which is a true measure of success.
20. Teach them compassion: Without empathy, children will do and say horrendous things, and not understand why their actions and words are hurtful. Compassion serves to improve relationships with peers and teachers; compassion serves as a compass for moral choices. Successful students use their compassion to identify with struggles in history, literature, and science; if they can make connections on a personal level with what they are learning, the knowledge sticks with them. They can access compassionate knowledge better than the rote memorization knowledge.
21. Teach them acceptance: First, teach children to accept the differences in themselves and others. Narrow-minded beliefs destroy relationships. So many of the problems in school begin with lack of acceptance. Remember, children don’t have to be friends with everyone, but they must be kind to everyone. Understanding that people have different upbringings, that individual choices are what we should strive for, that forced compliance destroys the unique beauty of individuals creates a safe world. Students who have a healthy sense of self-worth won’t feel it necessary to tear others down. Second, teach children to accept their circumstances, even when it doesn’t appear to be fair. So much time is wasted by students who can’t accept a lower grade or a project’s timing that they miss out on having to dig deep to find the strength to persevere in order to accomplish the task successfully.
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.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you agree or disagree with my list so far? Do you have any parenting strategies that teach these ethical characteristics to your children?