How do you get your children to achieve–or do anything for that matter? Be a good role model. Sound familiar? Children naturally want to be like their mom or dad. The reasons why are not going to raise any eyebrows: (1) you have a lot in common; (2) the loving and warm relationship you share; (3) the power you have as seen through your children’s eyes.
Power has some interesting dynamics you should be aware of. First of all, children don’t want to be like someone who has no power. It is therefore important you don’t make your spouse or yourself out like powerless people. For instance, don’t do this: tell your children to “Go ask dad,” whenever they make important requests. It’s better to say, “Your father and I need to talk it over before we can make a decision.” As well, avoid complaining about your spouse working too hard or too late. Your children may assume that it doesn’t pay to work hard. Their attitude toward school is a copy of your own attitude towards your job. After all school is work to them.
Another common pitfall is fathers putting down their wife’s contributions to the family. Because they may stay home or earn less money than fathers, mothers are seen as having less power. A mother’s contribution to the family unit cannot be justly described in terms of money or job status. It boils down to everyday tasks such as doing laundry, cooking dinner, and mopping the kitchen floor which most husbands would have a harder time doing than their own jobs. Because mothers spend more time with their children, they also are the ones tying Jessie’s shoelaces, blowing Amanda’s runny nose, sending Timothy to his room when he’s out of line, helping Meagan with her social studies homework, and talking to Justin’s teacher about a problem he’s having at school. Are these front-line duties worth less than what dad does? A father’s disrespectful attitude of mom can lead to boys ignoring or putting down their mothers, and girls competing or arguing with their mothers. Underachievement is also common. Parents should lavish respect on each other in front of their children, and always support each others work.
Another key point is that parents should be careful what they say about school when their children are close by. Offhand comments like “All teachers are overpaid,” or “Anybody can teach” give your kids the impression that school is not worth trying for. Always support school. You don’t have to describe school like Wonderland either, but keep the overall picture positive. True comments are, “Teaching is a hard job; your teacher must really like kids,” or “I used to think school was a waste of time, but now I know better.”
Try to give your children a realistic view of achievement. Make comments like these: “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. It’s okay to fail. Failure is part of life. Don’t let failure keep you down. Remember to get up and try again. Sooner or later you’ll make it.” “How well you do in school is not an accident; it depends on how hard you try. If you try your hardest, you’ll be the best you can be, and that’s the most you can expect of yourself.” “Your final accomplishment is not as important as what you learned in the meantime.” These help children realize that achieving their best is not the same as winning.
The fairest way of setting your children’s schoolwork expectations is by watching how hard they try. If they’re working hard, you’ve got a reasonably good measure of their ability. Don’t make the mistake of letting your children’s IQ test scores determine how well you expect them to do in school. Remember that intelligence scores change, and they don’t measure all your children’s abilities either. Always give your children a clear message that you expect them to try and do well in school. Comments like “We’ll be happy if you pass,” are humiliating to your children. What you’re really saying is, “You are dumb, so we don’t expect much from you.
Here are some guidelines of grades you can expect your children to get in school:
o If you have children in the gifted range, you can expect them to get more A’s than B’s, but don’t set your sights on straight A’s. This unbroken record piles too much pressure on your children.
o Above-average children should aim for a B average with some A’s and an occasional C.
o Middle-of-the-road children get mostly B’s or C’s with the occasional A or D.
o Below-average is mostly C’s with an occasional D or B. Teachers usually don’t give D’s to children who try their best and attend class regularly.
What do you do when your child gets in with a bad crowd of friends? In some circles it’s not cool to try at school. Your children may adopt an anti-learning standard as part of their ticket to popularity. To kids in grade school being popular is everything. They don’t understand that popularity is only temporary, and when they finish high school most kids will not see each other anymore. Having the most friends with the most parties is a dead-end value system. It will not lead to a successful career, happy marriage, or fulfilled life. What lasts is good friendship: having shared interests, support, kindness and fun. Don’t try to pick all your children’s friends, but do give them a basis for choosing their own friends. Ultimately your children’s friends will influence their achievement motivation and self-esteem. The message you should give your children is to be independent, do their own work, develop their own interests, enjoy their family, and be able to say “No” when their friends are all saying “Yes.”