Authored by: Ricky Vigil, Afterschool Program Coordinator, Cyprus High School
Some kids I’ve talked to at Back-to-School nights and Class Registration are genuinely excited to get back to their classrooms. When I asked the kids what they were looking forward to, a lot of them said spending time with their friends. Some were happy to take classes from their favorite teachers or to try out new subjects–our school’s new Japanese classes have a lot of hot buzz. While pitching our After school Program to parents, many of them were drawn to the homework help and tutoring portions of our curriculum. Grades are important, but sometimes parents (and the students themselves) put unrealistic expectations on their kids. A student who mostly got D’s last school year is probably not going to get straight A’s during the first quarter of the new school year–in fact, they might not ever get straight A’s, and that’s okay!
Oftentimes, we feel pressure to be the best. We feel pressure to set an example for our peers and siblings. We want to create a sense of pride in the people who we look up to. But we can do all of these things, and we can teach young people to do these things as well, even if we aren’t at the top of our class.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
It’s only natural to compare our own abilities, accomplishments and failures to the people around us. We don’t want to be perceived as inferior, dumber, slower, less capable than our friends and peers. However, it’s important to realize that everyone is an individual with different levels of understanding, skill and ability. Just because one person excels in a particular subject in school or is great at a certain sport, that doesn’t mean someone else, no matter how similar they may seem, will have the same aptitude or level of success. It is especially important for parents to not compare their children to their siblings or even to themselves when they were students.
Set short-term and long-term goals
If your child mostly got D’s last school year, it is unrealistic for them to get straight A’s in the first quarter of the school year. Instead, talk with your child and work together to create a goal that is easily measurable and not too drastic–in this example, maybe the goal could be getting a D+ or higher in the first quarter of school. If you follow this trajectory, you can work together to create a goal of the child having a C+ or better by the end of the school year.
Don’t be afraid to modify your goals
Sometimes, things don’t work out the way we hope they will. Maybe your child has a particularly tough teacher, or they have to take a class where the concepts just aren’t clicking for them. This might lead you to modifying your original goal. This shouldn’t be taken as a sign of defeat, but it also shouldn’t be interpreted as a free pass for failure. Encourage your child to continue working hard, and recognize the strides they are making.
Reward progress and effort
It can be difficult to work towards a goal if you don’t see the value of the outcome–a sense of pride is enough for some people to reach their goals, but other people need something else. Work with your child to decide what an appropriate reward for accomplishing their goals will be. You don’t want to get too outlandish with your rewards, but it is important to recognize the hard work your child is putting in towards their goals, and rewarding these goals is a great way to keep them going. It is also important to check in on the progress of the goals regularly to let your child know that you haven’t forgotten about the goals and you care about their progress. This is a great way to encourage them and keep them on the path towards achieving their goals!
Of course, these goals don’t have to be academic. Maybe getting up in the morning is a struggle for your child, or they constantly forget their lunch at home. Focus on what your child needs to achieve their own success, and involve them in the process to work towards solving their problems.