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Encouraging Success in School
By Beth D. Gaydos

Who are successful students? They are motivated learners who accept some responsibility for their own education. They understand that success comes as a result of their own efforts. They pay attention and concentrate on school-related tasks. Successful students can ignore or reduce distractions in the environment or from their own thoughts which can interfere with learning.

Successful students have the skills to understand the ideas presented in both the classroom and textbooks. They know how to get help if they have trouble understanding. Successful students can remember the facts and ideas they need to achieve in school.

All of this can be accomplished by students in a relaxed or stress-free way. While they might be concerned about doing well in school, they do not create excessive pressure for themselves.

What can parents or caregivers do to foster success in school-aged children?

Encourage Children to Think
Encourage your children to ask questions about the world around them.
When reading to or with young children, ask them to imagine what will happen in the story.

Actively listen to your children's conversations, responding seriously and nonjudgmentally to the questions they raise.

When your children express feelings, ask why they feel that way.

Suggest that your children locate information to support their opinions.

Use entertainment--a TV program or a movie--as the basis for family discussions.

Use daily activities as occasions for learning. For example, instead of just sending child to the store with a simple list of items to purchase, talk with the child first. Discuss how much each item might cost, what the total cost might be, and estimate how much change should be received.

Reward your children for creative activity.

Ask your children what questions their teachers are raising in class. For example, a history class might be discussing how American westward expansion began.

When children are involved in talk about the "why" and the "how" of things, they are more likely to become active thinkers.

Encourage Children to Listen

Again, encourage children to ask questions to clarify understanding. After a discussion, ask children questions about the topic to reinforce learning.

Teach them to focus on the main ideas presented.

Urge them to concentrate both on the words and the ideas and feelings expressed by the speaker.

Teach Children to Follow Directions

When showing children new skills, demonstrate each step and allow them to participate until they can perform the task alone.

Give directions one at a time to avoid confusion.

Motivate children

Serve as a role model to show learning is an ongoing and enjoyable experience.

Show interest in what your children are learning.

Offer constant encouragement so your children can learn effectively.

Acknowledge and celebrate your children's efforts to learn.


Heiman, M. & Slomianki, J., Thinking Skills: How Parents Can Help. Washington, D.C.: National Education Association.

Peel, K. & Mahaffety, J. (1990). A Mother's Manual for Schoolday Survival. Pomona, CA: Focus on the Family.

University of NE-Lincoln (October, 1990). Enriching Family Relationships. Lincoln.

Beth D. Gaydos is an Extension Specialist at the Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences. Reprinted with permission.


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