Skip to content

Start the School year with an A

Some teachers will tell their students this year: “You all have an A in this class your work is to keep it”. While hard work pays off, other factors also contribute to student’s academic enjoyment and success. The most important A to remember when looking forward to an academic year is Attitude. We’re not talking the hip and cynical form of attitude either. What I’m thinking of is a positive state of mind that helps a child apply themselves to all aspects-social, emotional and academic- of school.


Parents of elementary school age children can help kids with some important attitudes toward school. The start of school in the Fall is an opportunity for all students that were struggling last year to start over again. The Fall is a great time for parents to look at the larger picture and change thoughts about the next nine months. If you are expecting the same problems or conflicts with your child, it’s likely the pattern will continue. Instead, look for what has changed. Often the summer has been a time to relax, or learn a new skill like skateboarding or swimming. Look at the ways your child matured and remind yourself that they are changing a growing in a variety of ways


Optimism can apply to parents as well. It can be a skill that is learned by you to help you manage the more emotional and compelling aspects of a school year that will have its ups and downs. This will help you stay flexible with your child and help them to cope with frustration and learn from their struggles.


Staying positive does not mean parents must be Polly Annas. Here’s a rule of thumb: If the cost of being positive and remaining optimistic is small by all means be optimistic. Help your child take small risks such as asking a classmate for help. What have they got to loose? It’s a small rejection if the classmate says no. But, if the risk of failure is too great be realistic. If your child is on the edge of expulsion because a failure to complete work get REAL. Look for help from the school counselor or other psychological support.


Defining the role of optimism is sometimes as important as the task itself. I am suggesting that parents can model a state of mind that allows a child to take a risk or go to the edge of learning . This kind of support may them feel more competent and effective. Accepting a change in attitude can be a key to opening a new door to behavior change.


Another way parents can remain positive is by helping children find practical solutions to common problems. This is an important step in getting out of power struggles with a child and it also gives your child the idea that they can expect changes to occur and they can have a big role in shaping how those changes come about. Students can’t change behaviors if they are always defending themselves against negative attributions such as “He’ll never do his homework because he’s just not motivated.” Instead, ask your child what they think would be a new way around this problem. Parents, students and educators often have the imagination and competence to solve school problems. I once asked a very bright, young student who was a spending many nights in conflict with his family over starting his homework what he thought would help the situation and he suggested that he could listen carefully to the assignment so he could then know how to prioritize. He had the answer all along.   If adults listen to children and remain curious about what is the student’s role in promoting change then the student becomes more involved in accepting responsibility for the problem and ownership of the changes.


Parents that take time and effort to catch their child doing something good will notice that they get more of that behavior from their child. No matter how many times you may hear it, parents are the key to children’s success in school.