It’s that time again. Time to dig out lunch boxes, last year’s clothes, and backpacks only to discover that everything is either no longer “in” this year or has been outgrown. Time to comfort children over classroom assignments and pray that this year’s teacher(s) will be the kind that has such a positive impact on your child/children that he or she is remembered for a lifetime. It is time, whether with feelings of elation, sadness, apathy, nostalgia, or some combination of them, to send kids back to school.
The first day of school in many ways is the New Year’s Eve of a child’s education. It’s the yearly new beginning—a time to hope that this year will be better, as good as, or simply different from last. Yet while most parents have high hopes and expectations, it’s also common for them to feel somewhat helpless.
While it isn’t possible to control what happens in the classroom, you can have a positive influence on your child’s willingness and desire to learn. A parent or grandparent can get a child excited about what they’re learning and eager to learn more. You can make a difference.
Here’s a few things to consider as a new school year begins:
Build your child’s self-efficacy (confidence)
Self-efficacy refers to judgments people make about their own abilities. It doesn’t have anything to do with the actual skills people have, but rather with their beliefs about what they are or are not capable of accomplishing. The importance of self-efficacy in keeping a child moti- vated and helping them be successful in school cannot be underestimated. Children who believe they are capable of learning and doing well in school are far more likely to succeed than children who have the same abilities but little or no confidence. The truth is people with low self-efficacy (or confidence) are made, not born. So build up confidence in them.
-make sure they know their successes are from their own abilities, not luck
-help them have clear, short-term goals they can feel good about achieving
-when reviewing school work, point out what they got right rather than only pointing out what they got wrong
Never use learning as punishment
The fastest way to kill success in learning is to punish a child with activities you want them to enjoy. It sounds like such a ridiculous concept that it’s difficult to believe it could ever happen, but it does—and educators will tell you it happens all the time.
“Just for that, you can practice an extra hour on the piano”
“Because you can’t behave, I’m going to make you read 3 chapters in your math/ science/language (whatever class) book tonight.
Don't those kinds of things make an activity become less of a favorite?
Provide positive consequences for learning
Whenever learning is followed by positive consequence, you increase the probability that your child will think of learning positively in the future. The truth is we are never done learning. We will always need to learn so let's make it something we look at with joy.
A child figures out how to solve a difficult math problem and rushes to show mom or dad. Which scenario will most encourage a child to continue learning?
- Mom or dad stops what they are doing, and takes time to listen to the child describe how they did it and says, “Great job.”
- Mom or dad says, “You need to get the dishes done”, or “Take out the garbage.”
- Mom or dad looks up from their phone or computer and says without even barely looking up, “That’s great.”
It doesn’t mean children shouldn’t have to work hard. Simply that efforts should be rewarded with a ray of sunshine rather than a slap on the wrist.
Reduce the fear and anxiety associated with learning
Learning should not be a frightening or stressful experience, but unfortunately, it is for many children today. High expectations for performance from family members, competition from other students, stern educators and many other factors can create extremely stressful and frightening situations for kids.
When fear and anxiety are associated with learning, children will try to avoid it.
To reduce fear and stress and help make learning a positive experience let your child (children)
-It is okay to fail sometimes
-You don’t expect them to be perfect
-Adults sometimes have trouble learning things too
-You’re not comparing their performance with their siblings or friends
-Nothing bad is going to happen if they need help in school
The truth is sometimes getting a kid motivated to learn seems like an impossible task.
There are so many activities and interests to pull them away
But a parent is called to create an environment that encourages learning, not create an environment where learning is a turn off. So instead of beginning this year feeling powerless, start the new school year off right by creating the type of environment within your family that motivates and encourages them to learn. Doing this can make such an impact in their lives that you’ll give them a lifetime of loving and wanting to learn. May God Bless You in the journey!