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The Keys to School Success Begin At Home

By Sharon Youngman M.Ed/C.L.C. [Guest Article]

familyIt is an undisputed fact that children benefit from a harmonious and nurturing family life. Parents that set limits, encourage responsible behavior and use active listening skills raise children that are more likely to be motivated and confident in school and life.

Learning strategies that facilitate good communication, provide positive discipline, and help kids learn to be responsible begin at home. When these strategies are used in the home and at school, dramatic gains in development occur.


The most profound and effective parenting strategy is to become an active listener. Active listening will improve the relationship between adult and child. This means not only listening but responding in a way that shows no judgment, no attempt to solve and no attempt to make the situation into a lesson. When we respond to a child with our opinion, judgment or a lesson we reduce their motivation to communicate honestly.

The following are do's and don'ts of active listening:


Be Empathetic:  As you listen, try to put yourself in their shoes. How might they be feeling?


Give Advice:  Giving advice immediately is not always effective. Give the child an opportunity to express themselves and wait for the right time to give your insight or advice. 

Pity: Attempts to be sympathetic can become demeaning and also aggravate the situation.

Discount the feeling: The opposite of pity is to diminish the feeling.

I will be the first to admit that it is nearly impossible to use active listening 100% of the time, however, a sincere attempt at implementing these skills would be beneficial.

Aside from actively listening, another change we can make is how we communicate to gain a child's cooperation. Continuously repeating directions is ineffective and it is possible the child has tuned you out, hearing your voice as mere background noise.If your requests are ignored and go without consequence, the child will continue to be unresponsive to you.

To gain a child's cooperation it is often best to describe the problem in simple terms, state the importance, tell the child what you want them to do, (not what you don't want them to do) and then limit your reminders. Have a discipline plan in place and use it consistently.

Natural Consequences

A natural consequence or logical consequence is the natural result of our behavior. As adults we experience natural consequences daily. When we wake up late no one does our chores and we arrive late to work. Avoiding the dinner dishes results in a mountain of dirty dishes that no one else will do.  

Children often are protected from natural consequences because the adults in their lives have a strong desire to protect them from pain. Often times this protection hurts them more than it helps because children are unable to learn from their mistakes. Of course this does not mean we should let a child go wild and suffer the pain that follows. Within sensible limits, and with empathy for the consequences that follow, children will learn and grow from their decisions and become more responsible and independent.

Children benefit from natural consequences even when they are not so natural. The idea is to make it appear natural, thereby facilitating maturation and reducing the power struggle that comes from punishment.

Let's look at some examples of how natural or logical consequences work.

  • A child must make up the time (and therefore lose time from favorite activity) due to uncooperative behavior. If a child wasted family or class time by being disruptive or uncooperative then that child misses that amount of time from recess. The end result might be the same, but the logical connection is different.

  • A child must write a note (using their best penmanship and grammar) reminding themselves to make better choices next time. This takes them away from a favorite activity, reinforces the lesson and is an academic task they can take ownership of.

  • It's time to clean up and the child or class does not participate fully. Instead of helping, let them experience the natural consequence of missing the next special activity. The adult didn't take it away; they simply did not get to it on time.

Everyday Routines Teach Responsibility

Reduce the stress from everyday home and school routines through the use of checklists. This step by step, developmentally appropriate technique allows children to be as independent as possible. It's a win/win for the adults and the child and has long lasting effects on their sense of responsibility, confidence and resilience.

Show them that you have faith in them and then step back.

When parents and teachers master the art of communication, how to help kids learn from natural consequences of their actions, and assist them in developing everyday routines to take responsibility, the partnership between home and school is enriched. Children learn to succeed in school and in life.

Photo Credit: Ha-Wee

Posted on May 31, 2012 by Sharon Youngman M.Ed/C.L.C. [Guest Article]

Sharon is a mom, retired elementary school teacher and a parent educator. She is the founder of Good Parents, GREAT Kids which aims at helping New York City parents elevate their parenting skills through workshops and individual sessions. She is in the process of starting a non-profit aimed at supporting all families by helping parents and educators align goals that provide consistent expectations that strengthen student's emotional, intellectual and social development. Follow Sharon on Twitter

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Tags: *Parent Engagement at Home , Communicating, Cooperation, Empathy, Positive Discipline, Study Skills


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