Helping Your Kids Thrive Academically


How can you help your children thrive academically? Greg Smalley offers several recommendations to help your kids maximize their school experience.

Dear Greg,

Our kids (4th, 7th and 10th graders) have started back to school and my husband and I are wondering what we can do to help them succeed academically. Any recommendations?


There is so much you can do to help your kids thrive in school that it’s hard to know where to begin. Here are several ideas I’d recommend that will give your kids their best chance to shine.

  • Become a student of your student. Discover the particular learning style of each of your children and work with them to take advantage of their learning strengths (The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias is a great resource for helping you identify your kids’ learning styles). Determine where your children do their best studying and encourage them to make this their go-to homework spot. One child may do well working in their room while another is able to concentrate better at the kitchen table. Some kids need absolute quiet when reading while others benefit from soothing background music. Find the optimal study environment for each of your kids and help them make it a regular part of their study routine.
  • Be available to help with homework (in an appropriate fashion). The parent who stays up all night finishing her child’s science project is not doing her kid any favors in the long run, but helping a child grasp concepts is definitely in order. Even if you don’t feel confident with certain subject matter yourself, you can always offer encouragement and move them in the right direction, such as getting at-school tutoring.
  • Encourage a healthful lifestyle. Eating healthy meals together as a family not only provides nutrition which is key to mental and physical performance, but it creates a space where kids can talk about things that are important to them. Impress upon your children the importance of exercise and getting enough sleep. And refrain from over-scheduling your kids. Involvement in a few well-chosen activities (sports, music lessons, etc.) can be healthy and enriching, but over-commitment can quickly turn into stress.
  • Limit screen time. Excessive time spent with television, video games and computers distracts kids from studying and contributes to a sedentary lifestyle. Experts recommend limiting children to no more than one or two hours a day, and keeping computers and TVs out of kids’ bedrooms.
  • Set the bar at the right height. Some children are academically gifted; they can pick up various concepts easily and seem to make straight A’s without batting an eyelash. For others, getting a handle on the subject matter is done only with great effort. If your child is the kind who can produce grade-A work but comes home with B’s and C’s, it’s time to have a chat about the value of industriousness and the dangers of coasting. On the other hand, if your son puts his best into a class and brings back a B, celebrate that B!

By working with your kids to maximize their school experience you are investing in their future and helping them establish a foundation for success. The perseverance by you and your kids will be worth it!

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