Success At School, What Are The Secrets?

The summer holidays are almost at an end and children everywhere are starting to prepare for school. Some are anticipating, with the mixture of anxiety and relief, their final year, the HSC. Others are entering high school having to face the pressures of an increased workload, plus all the demands and responsibilities that are part and parcel of growing up. Then there are the little ones that are starting school for the first time.

It is safe to say that most parents want their children to be successful at school and to do the best that they can. There are often many issues to considered when trying to decide what is best for one’s child educationally. Should the school be public or private, is extra tutoring outside school hours a good idea, how much time should be devoted to sport and extra-curricular activities?

These are all worthwhile questions. However there is one consideration that is perhaps more fundamental than all of the above: whose school career is this—ours or our children’s?

Many parents through circumstances beyond their control may not have been able to fulfil the educational or career dreams they once set for themselves. So what happens? The dreams are not dead, just maybe deeply packed away in some hidden emotional recess. So, with the best intentions in the world, parents unwittingly try to relive these dreams through their children.

On a practical level what do we see? Parents who can ill afford private education making huge financial sacrifices to send their children to private schools. Pressure is placed on children to achieve in the belief that this will lead to automatic success. There is often frequent communication with teachers in an effort to understand why their child is ‘not achieving’ which can often be a parent’s very subjective point of view. Homework is strictly monitored with the parents sometimes doing the tasks themselves. The effects on the children—anxiety, an obsessive need to please, and a continual feeling that just being who they are is not quite good enough. I am using strong statements here as I am illustrating a scenario where things can start becoming dysfunctional for the child.

We as parents do not have it within our power to make our children more clever or achieve more than they are capable of. What is within our control is the ability to love them for exactly who they are, to praise and affirm them for every effort that they make and to make them feel that in our eyes they are winners. Doing anything else will instil a sense of shame and failure.

Having said all this, the fact remains that children differ enormously in their academic abilities and in the application of that ability to their school work. Of course, as parents, if our children are blessed with academic excellence, they are to be encouraged to do the best that they possibly can. They may be the future scientists and intellectuals of our next generation!

If our children struggle in certain areas or have remedial difficulties they should receive all of the assistance available to them. Our role as parents should be to remain in the background, quietly monitoring progress, giving encouragement at every appropriate opportunity and then getting on with our own lives.

So then what is this mysterious ingredient that leads to scholastic success? Maybe it is the simple term motivation. If we can engage in some of the above mentioned confidence building behaviours then maybe we can instil in our children the desire to succeed because they want the success for themselves. We then have a motivated child and the sky is the limit!

The more we affirm and the less we intrude, the more we are saying ‘I trust you, I believe in you. I know you can do this on your own but if you need my help just give me a shout’.

Now, what about those parents who believe it is too late for them and who may be living their lives vicariously through their children? It is never too late, take time to think about what changes you may wish to make, what new directions you wish to explore. Do some fact finding, check out available resources, talk to people and maybe even seek out professional guidance.

The more fulfilled we are as individuals, the better we are able to parent our children.