If you have looked at social media for even a minute during this, or the past few school years, it can seem that there is a constant stream of “look-what-my-kid-did” announcements. Our society has become more competitive than ever, and the drive to “be the best” can become overwhelming. Hopefully, as dads we always love and are proud of our children, but how can we encourage them to push themselves to succeed . . . without pushing them over “the edge?”
We all know that every one of our kids is different. We all know they learn at different paces, and respond to different strategies, so why is it we so often “push” them to succeed in the same way as others? Sure, there are non-negotiable standards and rules that do apply to all, but we somehow have to balance this with the fact each child is unique.
So, how can we best approach a new school year with its new challenges and new opportunities? By balancing the practical with the personal.
Practical Tips for School Success:
Sleep. Big surprise, right? But, especially with this electronic age our young are coming up in, getting a kid’s brain to truly rest takes almost a Herculean effort. Maybe your teen won’t drift right off to sleep like he/she did as a first grader, but calling off screen time a good hour before bedtime, might just help him/her wind down and towards a better night’s rest.
Nutrition. My wife and I struggled with this as the kids got older and busier. Our respective minivans and SUVs saw many a drive-thru window on the way from ball practice to band concert. We get it. But, we also tried to make sure the boys were getting plenty of the good stuff, too, e.g., the water, the veggies, and the fruits.
In addition, we purposed to have at least three, sit-down meals a week. Some years, we had to get up even earlier (collective groan) to share a breakfast because not one of us would make it home before 8:00 p.m. in the evening. Each family has to figure out their best chance for a healthy, hopefully happy, “sit-down.” It may be more difficult to plan than a carpool schedule, but so incredibly worth it.
Learning Reinforcement. Notice I didn’t say “homework?” That’s because I live with an educator and have been hearing that there is a lot of debate regarding the pros and cons of the classic school-related term. So, I say let’s just call it “learning reinforcement.” “LR” can be anything from checking the backpack as soon as the kids walk through the door, to making sure everyone has at least a 15-30 minute reading time.
Realistically, if you have been at ballgames, or piano lessons, or club meetings until fairly late into the evening, reading or anything school-related may be the last thing on your kids – and your – minds. That’s okay. Weave some “educational” talk into your “How was your day?” If they mention that they did the dreaded “fraction” lesson, tell them a little about how you learned to do them. They are reading “The Outsiders?” Groan and tell them that when the book was made into a movie, Tom Cruise was a teen . . . and so were you. Maybe they will mention an assignment they did on the computer, or submitted through Google Classroom. Laugh and tell them about the time your dog really did eat your paper homework, or about your first experience with a slow, giant box of a thing you also called a “computer.”
Personal Tips for School Success:
Know your kid. You already love and want what’s best for them, so if you don’t feel like you also truly know what makes them tick, do whatever it takes to get you there.
Once you know your kid, encourage them in a way that will best speak to their natural likes and abilities. Drive them to soccer; just go into the other room when they practice the trombone; and hang the masterpiece on the fridge.
And perhaps the biggest, yet easiest tip I can leave you with simply would be to keep on letting your kids know that you love them. Because you can bet on this fact, a kid who heads off to school in the surety of their dad’s love, already feels successful.
Kevin Weaver is a Springfield father of three.