Seven Things Parents Can Do to Help Their Kids Have a Great School Year

August 23, 2017

Parents can help their children have a fun and productive school year.
Parents can help their children have a fun and productive school year.

Children are back in school across Arkansas and parents are a vital part of their success. University of Arkansas faculty members recently offered some tips on what parents can do to help their children succeed in school.

PRAISE EFFORT

“Although comments like, ‘You are so smart!’ may come naturally to parents, praising children’s effort – ‘You worked so hard! Look what you accomplished!’ – is more likely to help children develop the kind of resilience that leads to success,” said Vicki Collet, assistant professor of childhood education. “Valuing effort – and helping children see the connection between effort and outcome – helps children feel control and personal responsibility.”

SEEK HELP WITH READING

“Parents can help their children become better readers, but parents need help if their child struggles to read,” said Linda Eilers, clinical associate professor of childhood education. “They may not know how to figure out a child’s greatest need and focus on that, especially if it is a foundational skill such as the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words, then associate letters with those sounds. A lot of reading practice won’t necessarily help a child overcome a deficit in foundational reading skills. Reading connected text is hard if a student is missing the ability to segment sounds in words and then associate those sounds with letters.”

SET HOMEWORK GUIDELINES

“Set some guidelines on homework,” said Marcia Imbeau, professor of special education. “A good routine would be to set aside time for a child to read either to an adult or independently for an appropriate amount of time. One researcher has suggested that 10 to 15 minutes a day times the child’s grade level is a good rule of thumb. You might also have your child explain a project that they are working on. Having a plan to handle the issue of homework is likely also to involve clearing away distractions that might interfere with your child’s ability to focus in order to complete a task. Balancing the need for some quiet concentration time with your child’s need to play and socialize is a key to helping homework become a routine that is positive for all.”

MANAGE SCREEN TIME

“There is no consensus on how much screen time (with phones, tablets and computers other than for homework) is appropriate for elementary-age children, but it is a critical time of life for developing good screen time habits,” said John Pijanowski, professor of educational leadership. “Perhaps more important than total time with devices is the quality of the screen time, which requires the guiding hand of an adult in choosing appropriate apps and websites. Consider having a hard cutoff time at least an hour before bedtime to promote better sleep and not allowing devices in their bedroom to avoid children waking up early for screen time. Discourage the use of devices during homework time or meal times so children develop good habits of focusing on the task at hand and the people around them.”

IMPROVE COMMUNICATION

“As a parent, I always felt I was communicating with my kids by just asking how their day went,” said Denise Mounts, clinical associate professor of childhood education. “The response was almost always the same, along the lines of ‘OK’ or ‘fine’ or boring.’ Then, I received this simple advice: Be intentional with everyday conversations. This was so simple to do just by asking those leading questions that can’t be answered with one word, questions such as ‘What was the even that stands out to you most from today?’ ‘What was your high today?” ‘What was your low?’ ‘If you could have something great that happened today happen again tomorrow, what would it be?’ ‘If you could change something that happened today, what would it be?’ Once I started going deeper, the conversations were so much livelier and more meaningful. And, you’re teaching your kids how to converse as well. A win all around.”

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS AT SCHOOL

“It does not have to be an unpleasant experience when needing to discuss a difficult issue with a teacher or principal,” said Bonnie King, clinical instructor of childhood education. “Educators know parents and caregivers are the experts of their child. Do not wait until nine-week teacher conferences to bring up a concern so that it may be resolved in a timely manner and before it becomes a larger issue. Email is a great way to reach a busy teacher; however, tone is important when addressing a concern. There are numerous pressures on teachers and administrators, and it can be helpful to include in the email what you appreciate about the school or classroom along with the concern you have. Leave a phone number and best time to reach you within the email. Assume the best of your child’s teacher and principal; they truly believe in creating partnerships to foster a positive learning experience for your child.”

HANDLE PEER PRESSURE

“As children get older, they begin to care deeply about what their friends think,” said Angela Elsass, clinical associate professor of childhood education. “Peer pressure begins in early adolescence and often includes partaking in risk-taking behaviors to seek approval and admiration from friends. Help prepare your child for peer pressure by engaging in honest conversations about the actions of others. Listen and make eye contact to affirm the importance of the topic and don’t overreact when your child tells you something you really don’t want to hear! Know who your child’s friends are and discuss what traits characterize a healthy friendship. Model how to think through situations and discuss what consequences might result from various situations. Help your child identify safe environments and how to escape from those in which they feel uncomfortable. Develop a code word or phrase that can be used in a phone call or text and has a specific meaning. Form a plan for avoiding peer pressure and practice it in role play.  Let them practice how to say “No!” in the safety of your home as you discuss various contexts that might occur. Promote positive self-esteem by demonstrating trust and respect for your child and affirm the good decisions they make.”

The teacher-education program in the College of Education and Health Professions graduated 258 teacher candidates last academic year, including more than 100 with master’s degrees in teaching.

spotlight on faculty scholarship

  • Preparing Teachers of Color to Teach

    Christian Goering, co-author Sense Publishers

  • Impact of Diversity on Organization and Career Development

    Claretha Hughes, Palgrave Macmillan

  • A Differentiated Approach to the Common Core

    Lynn Koch, co-author Springer

  • Teaching Students with Special Needs in Inclusive Settings

    William F. McComas, co-author Arcadia

  • The School Choice Journey

    Robert Maranto, co-author Palgrave Pivot

  • American Indian Workforce Education

    Carsten Schmidtke, Routledge