How to Raise a Successful Student

As we all know, academic success in childhood is important for lifelong success. Elementary school is where kids learn the basic skills they will need for the rest of their lives. On top of that, success in elementary school determines success in high school, which determines whether your child goes to college and which college she attends, which determines the types of jobs she is eligible for...You get the picture!

So, how do you promote academic success in your elementary school age children? This can seem like a daunting task considering it's importance, especially if you're a single parent, a working parent, or just a parent with minimal spare time. But don't worry, we have the tips you need to make sure your child achieves academic success, and tips to fit this task into your already hectic schedule.

Show Interest
Find out what's going on at school directly from the source - your child! Discuss his day with him: what was the best part of the day? what was something interesting he learned? what books is he reading? This is a great way for you to gauge how your child feels about school and how he feels about his own performance. Plus, the enthusiasm is contagious - if you are excited about your child's school experience, he will be too.

Get Over Your Insecurities
The Harvard Family Research Project found that parents who had negative school experiences as kids were less likely to become involved in their children's academic programs than parents who had positive school experiences. These parents also tended to feel uncomfortable about contacting their children's teachers. Moral of the story: don't let your own obstacles become obstacles for your child. No matter what happened to create any negative experiences for you at school, the dynamic is different now - you are a concerned parent and you have every right to become proactively involved in your child's success, on and off school property.

Discuss Your Expectations
Make sure there is an understanding between you and your child about what you expect. Is schoolwork more important than extracurricular activities? Will she not be allowed to go play with friends until her homework is completed? What kind of grades and report cards comments do you expect? Remember to set realistic expectations geared toward your child's current level and aimed towards improvement. Also remember that effort counts - if your child's grades fall short of the goal, her efforts are what matter. She can always do better next time, especially if you remain supportive and avoid too much pressure.

Praise Your Child's Efforts
The more effort your child exerts, the more praise you should be giving. If you want to instill a lifelong good work ethic in your child, this is the best way to do it. Not every child will have straight A's, but if he is trying hard to come as close as he reasonably can, that's all you can ask for and you should be proud. However, if his efforts are falling short, this is reason for concern and there should be consequences.

Monitor Homework
One important key to success is completing and turning in homework. Failure to do so results in bad grades, a poor teacher-child relationship, and not knowing the information at test-time. Set aside a certain time each day when your child is required to do homework. It is a good idea to set up a homework area with no distractions like TV and excessive noise. If she is using the computer for an assignment, check periodically to make sure that she is not distracted by games or the Internet. One good suggestion is to establish homework time at the kitchen table while you or your spouse is preparing dinner. This way your child is easy to monitor and you are close by for any questions she may have.

Teach Management Skills
Another important key to academic success (and in the future, work success) is time management. This is an important skill to develop early and your child will use it for the rest of his life. Many children actually don't do as well as they could in school because they don't manage their time correctly. Teach you child to do their homework every day and to start projects early and do a bit at a time. This way, when the due date approaches, he will not be overwhelmed or stressed out.

Prioritization is also key. Many children neglect their schoolwork in favor of playing with friends, TV, or videogames. Help your child establish what's important early. If her time management is on track, she will always have time to play later, after homework.

Organization is another important factor to success. Writing important things down helps with time management and prioritizing. And keeping work areas and lockers neat ensures your child will be able to find assignments, work tools (like paper, pens, and scissors), and athletic gear quickly and easily when needed.

Know Your Child's Teacher
Most teachers are more than happy to discuss needs and progress with you, especially because they want your child to succeed too! Student's whose parents are involved are more likely to be successful than students who have uninvolved parents. This way if there are any problems, they can be discovered and dealt with as soon as possible, and if there are any reasons for celebration or praise, your child will be aptly rewarded. Also, your child will be more motivated to perform and behave positively if he knows that you and his teacher talk regularly. Try to pick him up or drop him off at class once a week or once a month, and if you just can't manage it, call or email his teacher or send notes with him to class. Your child's teacher will appreciate your involvement as well.

Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences
This is a thorough way for you to check up on your child's progress, and it shouldn't be missed. Schools will often have displays of children's work up, and this is a great way for you to check out your child's in-class work (since you've been monitoring homework) and see the grades and comments on her projects. If the set times for parent-teacher interviews conflict with your schedule, talk to her teacher or principal about alternate arrangements.

Stress Attendance
If your child doesn't show up to class, she will not learn the material covered, it's that simple. Make a point of how important going to class is, and don't take your child out of school for unimportant events.

Establish Good Nutrition and Health Habits
Students who get a good night's sleep and eat breakfast do better than their peers. High levels of physical activity stimulate growth and development, physical health, a positive outlook, mental concentration and alertness, and they help your child sleep better at night. Also, fewer trips to the doctor or sick days mean better school attendance. Make sure your child is getting a good night's sleep by establishing a habitual bedtime and wakeup schedule to regulate her biological clock. Encouraging your child to join a neighborhood or school sports team or an after-school dance or karate class will ensure she reaps the physical and mental benefits of physical activity. Finally, if your family has a hectic morning schedule, keeping the kitchen stocked with breakfast bars, instant oatmeal, yogurt smoothies, and lots of fruit, ensures your child is getting the nutritious breakfast she needs.

Establish and Drop in on Extracurricular Activities
Extracurricular activities are important for your child's academic success as well. They teach teamwork, foster peer relationships, let your child explore something he is good at or interested in, and build confidence. Also, if you are a busy parent, these are a great way to make sure your child is supervised in a positive environment before you get home from work. Drop in on your child in action to show him you know how important these activities are to him and share his enthusiasm.