Essential Parenting Lessons for Enriching Your Child’s
November 3rd 2005
“We have a science project due in two
days and I don’t know when I’m going to get the time to finish it.”
“I did research on the internet for the social studies report until
midnight last night.”
“We wrote the spelling words ten times before they were finally
“I made flashcards for all of the multiplication and division facts
in preparation for the big math test.”
Do you think the above comments are from students, committed to
working hard to get good grades? Unfortunately, not. These are just
some of the things I hear from parents who enable their children to
take short cuts in school or who are too heavily invested in their
kids’ homework and school assignments. Parents who feel the need to
do the work for their children aren’t helping their children. “We”
do not have a test or a project due, the son or daughter does, so
why is mom or dad doing the work?
As a professional educational consultant and
owner of a busy in-home tutoring service, I hear these comments at least
three times a week from the clients I visit. My job as a tutor broker is to
match qualified tutors with students. To make the best match possible, I
meet every student and parent(s) in their home to get a better idea of the
students’ academic needs, as well as personality and learning style. I
interview the student, with the parent present. We talk about school, the
subject in which they need tutoring and their study habits. What I discover
is an increasing number of parents are more stressed out than the kids
because they are doing the work for their children instead of teaching them
good study skills and independence.
It is difficult to break the bad habit of doing too much for your children,
however, the following suggestions might help:
1) Realize that not all kids have the potential to get straight A’s. Some
parents believe that if their kids don’t get all A’s there is something
wrong. Absolutely not true! A well-rounded student is one who tries their
very best scholastically and is involved in social activities as well. Not
everyone can achieve a 4.0 average. There is nothing wrong with a passing
grade in all subjects, regardless of whether it’s an A, B or C.
2) Keep your expectations realistic. If your child is doing all of their
homework every night, studying to the best of their ability and taking
school seriously but not pulling all A’s, it is possible that they are just
not capable of living up the high expectations you have for them. If one
excels in reading and is less talented in math, accept that. Not everyone
can be excellent in every subject.
3) Make sure your child has a healthy mixture of academics and other
activities. A child who gets all A’s at the cost of having no friends or
social outlets is definitely going to suffer for it down the road. When
colleges look at a student’s academic record, they also look at extra
curricular activities, volunteer work, involvement in sports or the arts.
Grades and test scores are important, but so are being able to balance the
good grades with a well-rounded lifestyle.
4) Teach your child early on to be independent when it comes to school work.
In the primary grades, it is important to help your youngster establish good
study habits. Sitting with them and guiding them through homework
assignments, explaining or reading the directions to them is perfectly
normal and acceptable. By third grade, they should be able to do their
homework with much less involvement from you. Checking it over for them and
pointing out errors for them to correct is a good habit. By fourth grade,
homework should be reviewed by the parent. If there is a mistake, for
example, suggest that they review their work again because you found three
mistakes on pages one and two. Let them find the errors with limited
guidance from you. Fifth grade and onward, they should be totally on their
5) Help your child establish a homework routine and provide a quiet place
for homework. Some kids come right home and do their homework immediately.
Others need to wind down and do it right before dinner. Others are
productive after dinner. Tune in to your child’s most productive time and
try not to deviate from an established schedule. They will get so much more
done if homework time is defined for them. As they get older, changes will
probably need to be made to accommodate other activities. The key is
consistency. Provide the right environment for homework and studying. If you
have children who are toddlers or younger, be mindful that it is distracting
for a brother or sister to try to concentrate if the television is blasting
or the other kids are being loud.
6) Communicate with your children’s teachers. Know what is happening in
class and what is expected to be done at home. Be sure to attend
back-to-school night and all parent-teacher conferences. Get to know the
teachers and establish clear lines of communication with them. Be aware of
how and where homework assignments, quizzes and tests are communicated to
the class. Many teachers utilize a school website to post assignments, etc.
Check the site regularly and ask to see the completed work. For older
students, DON’T correct it, but instead make sure it’s done neatly! Know
when the exams are and when big projects are due. This way, if your teenager
informs you they are heading to a friend’s soccer game and you know a big
exam is the next day, you can inquire as to whether they have studied.
Knowing what is happening in a class is very empowering for a parent.
7) Encourage your student to think for themselves. Provide a dictionary,
thesaurus, calculator and any other tools they may need to do their work. By
fifth grade, if your child is still asking you how to spell words, they
haven’t learned how to be independent. When my fifth grader asks me “How do
you spell ‘special’?” I reply, “I don’t know, how you spell special?” She
gets infuriated, but she knows I won’t tell her and she begrudgingly looks
it up in her dictionary. I could have given her the answer, but then she
would always ask me and not learn to do it on her own. After all, I’m not
the one who has to take the spelling test or write the book report, she is.
If your child is consistently confused and always has questions about school
work, your antennae should go up. One of three things is happening:
a) They are not asking questions in class when they don’t understand.
Shyness, embarrassment, or drawing attention to oneself by asking a question
is the most common reasons for not asking. Encourage your child to speak up
and that it is “OK” to not know the answer to everything. Chances are if
your child has a question, others in the class have the same one and are
also too embarrassed to ask.
b) They are lazy or something else is going on that you may not know about.
When any student, regardless of age and grade is over their head, it is
common to just shut down and tune out. To this kind of student, there is no
point in taking notes because they don’t get it anyway, so why bother?
Homework is too confusing for them; they have scored poorly on every test,
so why try? It is also possible that something else is bothering them. Have
they recently changed schools from elementary to middle school or middle
school to high school? Some kids don’t handle transition well. Has their
group of friends changed? Have they suddenly become loners or too social?
Tune in to your students’ behavior and talk to them about it. Elevating
their self-esteem will do wonders and is often the cure for the lazy
c) It is possible they might have a learning disability. A child who has
struggled since the early grades might have a learning disability. For
example, if your sixth grader is still reading at a third grade level or
your ninth grader hasn’t mastered his math facts, there may be a legitimate
problem. The best thing to do is talk to the school first. You have a legal
right to ask for your child to be tested by the school. Unfortunately, due
to budget cuts in education nationwide, this process is not always as easy
as it should be. Talk to your pediatrician and ask for a referral for a
qualified psychologist who specializes in learning disabilities.
Teaching your child to be independent will result in a much healthier
relationship between you and them and a much more peaceful home life. I have
heard from so many of my clients who have not fostered independence in their
children that homework time results in tears, screaming and a general sense
of rebellion and indignation from their children. This can be avoided by
setting your children up to be winners – and that doesn’t mean straight A’s,
it means they are capable and willing to do their best and you are capable
and willing to accept the results.
Laurie is the Founder & President of
Bright Apple Tutoring Service, Inc. based in Southern California and Home
Tutoring Business, available for purchase in the U.S. and Canada. Laurie
Hurley is available for media interviews, discussions on education and
home-based business opportunities such as starting a tutor referral
business. If you are looking to begin a tutor referral service in your
community without the high cost of buying a franchise, contact her at
Bright Apple Tutoring. Call us at 1-805.376.0033