If you want your child to attain the best in life, whether that’s university education, apprenticing into a lucrative field, or otherwise, then you need them to start getting invested in their education now. Especially if they’re approaching or already in middle school. Every child has their own aptitudes as well as ways of learning, so it’s not always easy for a parent to tell if that child is truly engaged in their education and making an effort. However, there are things that you can do to help them become or stay engaged, and we’re going to look at that.
Be positive about it
School is difficult. It’s stressful, especially when you’re aware that you’re not doing as well as some other kids. Sometimes, parents can put undue pressure on their children so that, even if they do want to succeed, they start to build up overwhelmingly negative associations with studying, schoolwork, and the like. When you talk about school with your children, do it from the perspective of someone on their team, and be positive and respectful. Obviously, you may need to enforce some standards of getting homework done on time and being punctual and present, when regarding their academic standards, you are never going to scold or threaten them into being more engaged.
Be involved with their learning
You shouldn’t be content with sitting back and letting them fail or succeed independently, without any help from you. Now, you don’t want to end up doing their homework, but you should consider being there with them when they are doing their homework, to answer questions in ways that guide them to think about the answer or to go over their notes with them to piece together how to work it out. First of all, collaborating with your child on their schoolwork can make it a more naturally interesting thing to do, since kids are always apt to follow in their parents’ leads (when they’re not engaging in some teenage rebellion.) Talking about their school day, and what they learned, and making it part of a mutual conversation instead of interrogating them can be a big help.
Make sure they have a good learning environment
Given how much of a kid’s schooling is done at home, without even considering the remote learning that has become a permanent fixture in some places, it is very important that your child has a space where they can sit down to learn without constant interruption. Creating a study space for them, whether it’s in their bedroom or you share your office with them for the purpose, can be vital for making it easier for them to keep up with homework, study, and avoid distraction. Of course, when they’re actively studying, you might want to make a rule of not taking digital devices into the said environment, too.
If you’re hoping that your child becomes more consistent and proactive when it comes to things like homework and studying, then it’s going to take more than a good working environment, alone. One of the biggest issues is that many young individuals will want to procrastinate and push back doing the necessary work for as long as possible, even if this does become something of a mental stressor for them. As such, you can set rules that foster a more proactive attitude. For instance, if they have recreational plans for the day, like going to a friend’s house, or they want to play their videogames or watch a movie, you can make it a rule that they can do this only once they’ve done their homework or studied. Make this an iron-clad rule of the house and you will start to see them procrastinate a lot less. You might have a little stress initially, but most kids will settle into this routine.
Don’t make reinforcement entirely material
It’s easy to get into the habit of rewarding your child for doing their homework or studying, such as by using tangible rewards, whether it’s pocket money or something they’ve been hoping to buy. Even the rule above of allowing them to enjoy recreation after doing their work counts as this kind of reinforcement. This is effective, but it needs to be supported by social reinforcement, as well. If they’re younger, this can mean hugs and high-fives, for older children, displaying a positive and enthusiastic attitude about their efforts in a more subtle way might be more effective, as well. If they’re really struggling with some work, you might want to break both the work and the rewards up into chunks.
Be ready to bolster their efforts
When there’s a big test coming up or your kid is struggling with a subject and is trying to focus on it, then you can make sure that you’re there to help them find new ways to engage with it. If a certain subject isn’t getting into their head as well as they want, then consulting their notes and textbooks with the same information might not be as helpful for them as you might think. Getting additional materials together like middle school worksheets might be a more apt approach. You can help support their studying efforts by investing in materials that they can use to engage with the subject in a new way.
Get involved at school, as well
As a parent, you have a huge opportunity to help your child’s education by becoming more involved with it. However, a great education is traditionally built by a three-way partnership between the student, the parent, and the school. As such, you should look at ways to get involved at their school, whether this means keeping in touch with their teacher, as much as is appropriate, joining the PTA, and making yourself more available. Fostering better relationships with your child’s school can give them a big advantage.
Ensure that they’re getting enough sleep
Between the amount of unsupervised screen time that kids are getting their phones, laptops, and the like, and modern schedules being a little more flexible in general, it’s not uncommon for kids to not get enough sleep. However, this can be really detrimental not only to your child’s grades but to their general health, as well. This is especially true as they get through their adolescent and teenage years. Teenagers do genuinely require more sleep than adults, they’re not just being lazy. And helping them get as much sleep as they need is going to positively impact their mental health, their ability to focus, energy levels, and so on. If you need to start enforcing a curfew and bedtime to help them get more sleep, then that’s what it should take.
Keep them reading
No matter what age your kids are, it’s long established that reading aids education in a wide variety of ways. Reading not only gets them more used to engaging with text, digesting, and processing it, but it also helps them to establish confidence in learning which they can then take into their studies. You should try to foster a lifelong love of reading, whether it’s by having weekly visits to the library with them, buying them books as gifts, or even, when they’re older, talking about books with them, including the books they might be studying in school. Just try not to make it feel like you’re giving more literature lessons.
The tips above are not one-time fixes. If you want your child to be engaged in their education, then you have to show that you are, too. It has to be a team effort between parent, child, and school.