What I Wish Parents Knew
Making beds can help them make the grade. "Children who have responsibilities at home have the easiest time being responsible students," says Deen Logan, a first-grade teacher at Christ Presbyterian Academy, in Nashville. Give your child regular, age-appropriate chores. It will teach him to follow instructions and complete tasks—helpful when he's organizing his science project the next day.
A preschool doesn't get your child into Harvard. So your toddler mixes up her P's and B's every so often. "Don't take everything so seriously when kids are young," says Michal Fox, a psychologist and the head of the Early Childhood Center of the Ramaz School, in New York City. "What might seem huge and monumental in pre-K will eventually work out." In other words, stop sweating the small stuff—your child's coloring skills at age three, for instance. "When you relax, you can see whether there's a real issue or whether your child just might benefit from another approach," says Fox.
Empty their backpacks. You might find last week's ham sandwich that your child refused to eat. Or, more important, you might find permission slips, homework assignments, and notes from teachers. "Sometimes kids fail to tell you there is something important to sign, and they are the ones who suffer the consequences the next day at school," says Gayle Kraut, a teacher at Washington Elementary School, in Tiffin, Ohio.
Let your child fail. "It seems counterintuitive to parents, but don't be afraid to let your child fail. This means letting your child go to bat for herself, without your trying to change reasonable consequences," says Jennilee Miller, a middle-school teacher at Immanuel Christian School, in Springfield, Virginia. Miller says parents sometimes try to negotiate a grade change for a child who goofed off instead of studying. The long-term result? The child never deals with real consequences. "The greatest gift we can give our kids is accountability," says Miller. The same goes for homework: Don't do those math problems for her. Instead, say, "I see a few mistakes. Do you want to find them?"
Read, read, read. "Practice reading at every opportunity," says Rhonda Compton, a third-grade teacher at Cane Ridge Elementary School, in Paris, Kentucky. "Read books, by all means, but also read cereal boxes, street signs, magazines, and lotion bottles. It's the foundation for all other learning and sets the stage for your child getting ahead in every subject matter."