The following is a guest post by Raj (Anurag) Pandey, Education Program Director at MathCrunch.
Parents have a tremendous impact on a child’s achievement. According to the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), when parents are involved, regardless of income or background, children are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores, enroll in higher-level programs, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, graduate, and go on to postsecondary education.
However, parents also have to be thoughtful about their involvement and ensure that the things they do and say are actually helping, rather than hurting, their kids. This can sometimes be difficult, especially after a long work day or when dealing with a child with an uncommon learning style. Every child is different and has different needs from their parents, but across the board, here are five phrases that parents should eliminate from their vocabulary.
“Sorry it’s too hard and I can’t help with this.”
Saying this phrase to your kids signals them to give up, even before they get started. Instead, acknowledge that the subject can be challenging to learn. If you are not able to help, then work with your kid to find resources or people who can. Suggest after school sessions with teachers if the school offers it or find tutoring help, either online or at local learning centers. There are a number of affordable ways to access after-school help, and many cities even have volunteer organizations that offer free tutoring.
“Here, I’ll just do it.”
In the event that you can help your child out with their schoolwork, resist the temptation to just give them the answer. That may seem like the easiest option, but your child will learn nothing from the experience. Even worse, they won’t learn the importance of self-reliance, resourcefulness, and persistence. Think of yourself as their teacher, as well as their parent. Be patient and work with your child to solve the problem at hand. Help them understand the material and learn how to complete the task independently. They will not only gain greater mastery over the material, but also a sense of empowerment (the whole “teach a man to fish” thing).
“Well, if they (siblings or classmates) can do it, why can’t you?”
While this statement may be true, comparing your child to someone else will create an unhealthy sense of competition in the household and dilute their confidence. Instead, try to boost their confidence and instill can-do attitude by focusing on their strengths. Let them know that everyone has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, and no one is good at all things. Have an honest conversation about the things they are struggling with, and discuss how you can work together to fill the gaps they are experiencing.
“Your teachers are telling me you can’t keep up.”
Whether the teacher is telling you this or not, it’s your job to support your child. To a child, the feeling that parents and teachers are banding against them is scary and demoralizing. Addressing the issue this way may cause them to feel embarrassed, defensive, or to shut down.
The better approach is to engage your kid in an ongoing dialogue about how things are going at school. Let them know that it is OK to be honest and share when a subject is difficult for them. Saying something like, “Hey, how is that class? It’s a tough subject,” leaves room to have a meaningful conversation, not a yes or a no answer. Encourage them to come to you, instead of going on the attack.
“Well, you’re not trying hard enough then.”
There’s a pretty good chance your child is trying hard. Many kids struggle to stay focused in school and be productive (as do many adults.) If your kid is trying hard and they hear this from their parent, it is hurtful, not to mention discouraging. It will make them feel that they are not capable of learning and that all their efforts are wasted.
The fact is that many other reasons might be getting in the way of their success. The best approach is to work together to develop a solution to the problem. Maybe they need a quiet, distraction-free room to be able to focus, or maybe the prospect of a reward helps them hunker down. Whatever the case, make overcoming their hurdles a collaborative, supportive effort.
Kids don’t just learn about math, science, and history in school. They learn how to think, how to work, and how to interact with other people. As parents, it is not only your responsibility to make sure they get their schoolwork done, but also to teach them good problem solving habits that will serve them for the rest of their lives. This requires patience and an open-mind. Most of all, it requires talking, and more importantly, listening. Just as you expect your kids to do their best, parents must also do their best to cultivate a positive, constructive dialogue.