Thank you for allowing me to share a few ideas on starting the school year by encouraging success. One of the things I love about Good Dads is the organization supports us all on our journey to become better fathers. On my own journey to trying to become a better dad I have been thinking about ways I can help my 10- and 12-year-old children have the best school year possible. I’m sharing three questions I have been asking myself about the new school year in the hopes it might spark a useful idea or two for you to use in your own parenting journey.
First, how can I help my children set goals for the new school year? I think it is important for children to have a few goals they are trying to accomplish each year and to put those goals in writing. I also realize while academics are important it takes life skills such as grit and teamwork to be successful. Therefore, I encourage my children to set an academic goal and goals for their activities and their character. For example, my kids have set goals for making a certain grade in math, trying out for a solo in choir (courage/grit), and trying to earn the Kid of Character Award (citizenship/teamwork). Throughout the year we will periodically talk about how they are doing and discuss things we can do to improve. By the way, my wife and I will also set goals for the school year in order to model the importance of goal setting. My goals for last year included reading a book a month, serving at school as a WatchDOGS (Dads of Great Students) volunteer, and leading All Pro Dads at McBride Elementary.
Second, how can I set high expectations for my children this school year? A simple thing I do each morning as my kids are leaving for school is to tell them to “Keep being leaders and learners!” I like to throw the word “keep” in there because I want them to know I already see them as leaders and learners. I want my kids to view me as their biggest cheerleader. In addition, we try to have a family meeting each Sunday during lunch. This is a short visit because I don’t want them to dread a weekly sermon from Dad. However, we do share a success from the past week and a goal for the coming week. This gives us a chance to look back and look forward as a family each week and reinforce our expectations. We also play games and plan fun activities for the coming weeks. We do like to have lots of fun together, and I think forming these close relationships as a family also helps with success at school.
Third, how can I be an involved parent at school this year? I have seen how dads who are involved in school support children in being successful at school. This one seems to get harder as my children get older. I definitely try to be there for Open House, conferences, performances, etc. However, beyond that I have found it beneficial to participate in the McBride Elementary WatchDOGS program. WatchDOGS is a program that allows dads to volunteer at school one or two days per year and help in a variety of ways from greeting students in the morning, to being present at recess, to helping students with their school work. I also found it rewarding to serve as our school’s All Pro Dads captain the past few school years. All Pro Dads is a time for dads and kids to meet together for breakfast and discussion before school. If your school does not have an All Pro Dads chapter you might consider starting one this year (Good Dads can help with this). I found that All Pro Dad days quickly became some of my kids favorite days of the year.
I am not a perfect dad. I let my kids have too much screen time. I feed them too much sugar. I lose my patience at times. My kids might say I am a little too competitive during our family games. I just see it as helping them learn to endure smack talk in the face of adversity. Anyway, I appreciate the way Good Dads reminds us we do not have to be perfect dads. If we are simply good dads our kids will reap the benefits for a lifetime. What are some things you will do to contribute to the educational success of your children? Have a great school year!
Pat Bauer, EdD
Pat Bauer, EdD is an educational specialist and regional leader for the University of Missouri’s College of Education. Prior to working for MU Pat was a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent in the Lebanon School District. Pat is married to Sheri and they have two children, Nick and Lindsey. Pat’s favorite things to do include spending time with family, cheering for Mizzou, and supporting his children in their various activities.