As parents we want our children to do well in school. Children learn best when they feel safe and happy and have confidence in the adults around them. These tips don't all relate to the academic side of school but they can all play a part in ensuring your child is well supported, whether they are just starting their school life or are teenagers preparing for exams.
Give appropriate praise
Most parents naturally praise their children but research (particularly the work of Carol Dweck on growth mind-set) has found that some ways of praising are better than others. Praising children in very general ways, or for things they are easily able to do it is less effective than praising them for the way they approached a problem or for the strategies they used when dealing with something.
Some children won't talk readily about school but if they do, it is important to listen. It is tough as a busy parent especially at the end of a long day but children can quickly learn that you don't seem interested in school, so if they do talk make listening a priority.
Ask specific questions
Many parents say when they ask children how school was, they are met with silence or a shrug. Sometimes the question is too vague, try asking something really specific, like 'tell me something that made you smile today' or 'what was the best bit of the math lesson' or even 'who did you sit next to at lunch'. Questions that are specific will get them starting to talk about school and often then they find a lot to say!
Get both sides of any story
There are bound to be times when things happen at school that your child isn't happy about. You are the parent and it's important they feel supported by you but perspectives vary. Before you draw conclusions or make too many comments get all sides of the story. Children can be selective with their reporting!
Show confidence in the school
Schools are full of teachers and other staff who are all human and sometimes they will get things wrong. You should always contact the school or your child's teacher to ask them about anything that concerns you or an issue you wish to discuss but it will simply never help your child to hear you running down the school or the teachers. Most children learn best when all the adults around them can share the same goals and work together. Parental lack of confidence in the school can have a really negative impact on children and young people.
Make homework a priority
The lives of children and young people can be very busy and it is important that your children take part in a range of activities outside of school to enhance their development. But it will be hard for them to see homework, and therefore education, as something that is important if you don't. There has been considerable debate about homework but at the moment it is still given in most schools so as a parent it needs to be something that you ask about, provide space and resources to do and make sure time is given to do it.
It is much easier to be supportive and monitor your child's progress when you know what is expected and what they are doing in school. Most schools now have websites that detail the term's work and even though there have been a lot of changes to assessments recently your child's teacher will be able to tell you if they are on track to achieve expectations for their age and stage. Don't wait for end of year reports make it your business to know how they are getting on.
Let children see you love to learn
Children are more likely to value education if they see that you value it. Let them see that you still want to learn, are prepared to look up or find out things you don't know. Seeing that you read and enjoy information is important as it will contribute to their view that learning is of value.
Address problems early
Developing good reading, spelling and writing along with basic maths skills are essential and something parents can help with, though if they are at school discuss with the teacher the best things you could do to help. If problems develop discuss with the school, ask for support or engage a tutor for just a couple of hours a week. Getting help for them early is vital.
In all areas of life children take their lead from you. If their learning is something that stresses you then they will pick this up. So have a positive attitude to school and learning and this will rub off onto your children.