12 Things Parents Can Do to Ensure Their Kids Succeed at School & Life

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author image_Stephanie RayleThis article was written by Stephanie Rayle - an English teacher from Clarksville, Tennessee, about to start year 28 

1. Meet his/her teachers.

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Go to open house. Many high schoolers will discourage their parents from attending; go anyway. Think of the bigger message it sends: We are all on the same team. We all want you to go as far as you are able to go. Your education is the way to get there. This is important.

2. Don’t wait for a teacher to email you.

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Especially early that freshmen year; after the first 3-4 weeks or so-  email us, ask for an assessment on him academically and socially. Tell me about your child. Ask me what I have noticed. Any concerns? Any observations? Repeat 2nd semester.  Here’s the advantage: Most high school teachers have 130+ students a day. I’m busting my rear end teaching, grading, keeping up with incorporating constantly changing technology into my instruction, meeting with a team of teachers to evaluate data to improve instruction, etc. If you’ve contacted me prior, and I observe an anomaly in his/her behavior,  I’m much more likely to remember. "Oh that’s the kid with the mom who emailed me." I’m going to contact you. Of course  any overt change in academics or behavior I’m going to act upon; but an obscure change might not register with 35 kids in a classroom,  unless I’ve already been alerted to him/her.

3. If your child’s school has an online grading program, utilize it.

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Programs such as Powerschool give parents the option to have grades emailed weekly. Convenient. Informative. Invaluable. Much easier to address a low grade ½ way through the grading period than two days before the end.

4. Require that your young adult get involved in SOME kind of sport/club/activity.

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Encourage his/her interests. Sports, art, forensics, choir, theatre, student council, quiz bowl, anime club, SOMETHING. Your child’s school has a website, with a list of clubs and sports offered. Look at it together. 

5. Finding a niche for your child in the maze of social groups and cliques that is high school. 

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With 1,000 or more students, this can make him/her feel included, a part of the institution rather than an outsider. An organized activity out of school (church, scouts, volunteer programs) can provide your young adult with a spot he can be himself. That sense of belonging will make a difference in his success. 

6. To the parents of the overachievers, those gifted and talented, GPA-driven, academic superstars:  Start talking about college that freshmen year.

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Look online, research requirements early. Start visiting campuses spring break of sophomore year. Encourage your young adult to take as many AP classes as he/she can, without being stressed out. You will save money and time. Talk to other parents of older academically successful students. What AP classes were most beneficial? Which were not? Encourage other activities besides academics. They need a life outside of textbooks.

7. To the parents of the underachievers:  Prior to the start of freshmen year, talk to a counselor. 

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Share your young adult’s history. Counselors share a unique perspective into the faculty and staff at any given school. As you register for classes, a counselor can help steer your young adult into particular courses, with particular instructors who can best meet his needs. If your young adult struggles most with math, for example, it’s not unreasonable to request that he have math in the morning rather than the last period of the day. ASK about tutoring. Most schools offer some type of tutoring program. Even better, have an upperclassmen tutor. They’ve been through the courses, know the material, teachers and expectations. Today, a high school diploma is not enough to guarantee a career and financial independence. Check out tech school programs, internships, apprenticeship programs.

8. To those parents of the "middle-of-the-roaders":  Monitor his/her academics. College is not for everyone.

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Studies have shown that high school GPA is the #1 predictor of success in four year colleges. This does NOT mean your young adult can’t be successful unless he goes to college. This means, look at other options. Tech school. Internships. Two year training programs, apprenticeships.

9. Talk to your young adults about sex, alcohol, and drugs.

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TELL them what you expect. Hold them accountable. You have a lot of power, even over those 17 year old seniors who think they are grown. Monitor their social media. Please. MONITOR THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA.

10. If/when your young adult complains of being mistreated, please don’t immediately attack. 

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I understand the momma bear mentality; most of us are parents. Give the instructor a chance to explain his/her side. Give that educator a chance to make it right, if wrongdoing has been done. But if no resolution is found, go to an administrator and fight for your child. 

11. Don’t clean up behind all your children’s messes. 

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Let him make mistakes. Hold him accountable. High school is a enclosed, protective bubble before he gets to the real world. If he skips school and is caught, let him serve those two days of in school suspension instead of covering for him. We are trying to help you raise responsible, caring, mature and successful young people. Letting him get away with minor offenses will only make him believe he can get away with larger ones.

12. Don’t do their work for them. EVER.

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Remind them, assist them with what they need, support them. But do NOT do it for them. You will cripple them if you bail them out of meeting deadlines on their own. You will be denying them their own sense of accomplishment and sentencing them to dependence on you or others. Better to learn at 15 y/o what neglecting a massive project can do to his grade, than on the job at 24 y/o, dismissing a deadline for his boss that costs him his job.

We all want them to succeed. We are on the same team. I promise.


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