Yes, of course you want your child to work “toward” something. However, the goals he or she has for the school year need to be his/hers, not yours. Simple reason: If the goals are yours, the child will act as if interested in them (just to please you), but that interest will fade when it comes time to prioritize activities, homework, sports, etc.
Here are surefire ways to get your child to invest in goals for the school year:
- 1. Ask your child what he wants to see happen this year at school. When he gives you a blank look, add: Grades? Making friends? Activities? Improving your skills for speaking in front of the class? Relating to other kids more successfully? These questions open the door to a real conversation. What about grades? Ask: “Were you happy with the grades you made last year?” If the answer is yes, that’s the end of that. If the answer is no, ask what your child would like to see on that first report card and that first essay.
- Ask your child, “What’s a good way to improve grades?”
S/he may say: “I could study more.”
Your response: “Right after school or an hour before bedtime?”
S/he may say: “I guess I could listen better in class.”
Your response: “That sounds like a winning strategy.”
- Explain: “Let’s come up with ideas for the day you face an obstacle.”
“Well, I get confused when they start reviewing math from last year…”
Your response: “I can try to help, or we can find someone to help you. Another option is a tutor, who can bring you up to speed before the school year starts if you’re interested in trying a couple of sessions.”
- Empower your child to see “school fate” as in his/her own hands. He gets to write the script and scribble in the changes. The fixes are his/her own calls.
- Brainstorm with your child for solutions the minute he complains that he is confused in a subject or needs help in English, math, chemistry, etc. In a parent’s busy life, it is easier to disregard a child’s early complaints and hope these disappear. Unfortunately, if you do that, by the time you decide to get assistance, the child may be very confused and the situation harder to rectify.
- Explain to your tween or teen that one-on-one makes a huge difference. Even if your child needs only two or three one-on-one sit-downs with a parent or friend or tutor, this focused time can have an enormous impact. Also, from that point, the child probably will ask for help—and not feel embarrassed about it. Many teens (especially) are reluctant to ask for help because it is important to their self-image to come across as confident and smart. Admitting they need extra help is extremely difficult for some kids.
- Talk about how good it will feel to be “locked and loaded” with ideas and goals when returning to school. “Let’s get you set up for success early in the year, and that will make you feel more enthusiastic about school. Preparation is a very good thing! There’s no down side.”
“I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky.”
― Oprah Winfrey