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10 Tips for Improving Your Child's Grades

We all want our children to do well in school because we understand that academic achievement will lead to better educational and career opportunities. School, however, is also where children learn important life lessons. They refine their social skills by interacting with their friends and teachers and they develop a personal disposition toward task completion by the way they learn to approach their school work. Listed below are 10 tips that if applied diligently will help your child do better in school and give him/her the foundation s/he needs to have a successful professional life.

Tips 1-3

  1. Tune into WIIFM. (“What’s In It for Me.”) We know that school is important, and our children know that we believe that school is important, but do they know why school is important? And do they know why specific classes, like algebra for example, are important? We need to help them learn the benefits of doing well in school and the benefits of taking specific courses. Rather than tell them, however, we might challenge them to brainstorm a list of benefits on their own or to ask their instructor.
  2. Give Your Child the Gift of Reading. My most effective students read well. One of the greatest gifts my father gave me was a love of reading. He gave me that gift by being an avid reader. And even though he died approximately 20 years before my son was born, through me he has given that gift to my son.
  3. Partner with Your Child’s Teacher. You need to know your child’s teachers and your child’s teachers need to know you. Knowing your child’s teachers allows you to learn what is expected of your child and to adjust your child’s schedule accordingly. Letting your child’s teachers know you has a number of benefits, not the least of which is that your child will get extra attention. Teachers are human and will respond to your concern.

Tips 4-6

  1. Love What Your Child is Learning. This is more than making sure your child has completed his/her homework. Leo Buscagalia’s father would ask the children every day what did you learn in school today. This simple question made sure that they learned something everyday, but more importantly communicated to them how important learning was to him.
  2. Tell Your Story. I do not know about you, but I did not enjoy all of my school experiences. In fact, 7th grade had to be the worst year of my life. And a big portion of my life was school. Our children need to know that we were not always perfect students. In fact, I was far from being a perfect student, and I wished there was some one I could talk to about how miserable I was feeling. Had my parents shared their stories of misery, I may have felt more comfortable sharing mine and perhaps the social aspects of school life would not have distracted me from the academic aspects.
  3. Random Rewards. One of the best ways to undermine your child’s academic performance is never to acknowledge your child’s academic successes. An even better way to undermine is to establish a reward system for doing well. If a child studies to do well because s/he will receive a tangible reward, we have 2 problems. First, the rewards will have to become bigger to have any impact and second, any satisfaction the child may receive from doing the studying will be attributed to the award. UNLESS the reward is unexpected. A wonderful way to enhance academic motivation is by giving an unexpected tangible reward for a job well done when your child least expects it.

Tips 7-8

  1. This may surprise you. You should acknowledge effort your child put in to get a good grade more than the grade. Why? Because the more time they spend on task, the better they will do. So what we want to do is consistently recognize (and randomly) reward effort. i.e., acknowledge time spent at the child's desk studying. The benefits are twofold. First, placing an emphasis on effort encourages persistence and a willingness to try new and possibly more effective learning strategies. Second, placing emphasis on effort encourages your child to value learning, not just for the sake of getting good grades, but for its own sake. effective academic performance is time on task. Regardless of their academic ability, the more time children invest in doing their school work
  2. Teach Strategies. Most parents have high expectations for their children, especially the firstborns. And high expectations are a wonderful thing unless, they are too high or the child has not been taught how to achieve them. It is a good idea to let your children know that you expect them to do well in school. But you must give them a fair chance by telling them exactly what doing well means to you. And you must teach them how to do well. So help them establish a study space and a study schedule and teach them how to study.

Tips 9-10

  1. Make Testing Fun. When my son, Hunter, was attending a Montessori School, he had a spelling test every week, and I think both of us looked forward to it because I helped him prepare by playing “The Popcorn Game.” Every time he spelled a word right he would get to eat a piece of popcorn and every time he spelled a word wrong I would get to eat it. I think he was more interested in stopping me from getting the popcorn than he was in receiving it. Whatever the case may be, he always did well on his spelling tests. He was 6 then and is 11 now, and still enjoys playing the “Popcorn Game.” So do I, but I imagine that the Popcorn Game will soon become Jeopardy.
  2. Constructively Explain Failure. At some time in your child’s academic life, s/he will not do as well in a course as s/he would have liked, and s/he will search for an explanation. Some children will blame their poor results on an external factor. For example, “the teacher does not teach well,” or “she did not cover the material” or “the test was unfair.” These explanations allow children to avoid responsibility for their performance. Other students will eagerly blame their lack of intelligence or argue that they can not learn the subject matter. These explanations give children a reason not to try. There are only three explanations that parents should accept from their child for not doing well: 1) “I did not understand the assignment,” 2) “I did not study effectively,” and 3) “I did not study enough.” These three explanations empower our children, instead of giving them excuses for failure.