How To Help Your Child Be An Excellent Student

Excellent students do not get good grades: mediocre students do. Mediocre students show up to class, do (most of) their work, and simply “get” whatever grade they are given. Excellent students, on the other hand, set clear, realistic goals in advance and then they actively work to achieve them. Here’s how you can help your child be an excellent student this fall.

Don’t just spring this conversation on your child; mention that you are planning on this chat and set a time where you can sit down purposefully for that purpose. Giving a little leadtime will raise their level of concern and cause them to do a little thinking on their own prior to your talk.

  • When the time comes, sit down with paper and pencil and a copy of last year’s grades. If you do the writing, you can better control the pace and direction of this conversation. Together, make a list of all of the classes coming up.
  • Ask your son or daughter what their final grade was in each class last year and write it down next to the comparable class for this year.
  • Then ask your son or daughter what grade they hope to get in each of their upcoming classes and write that down in the next column.
  • Now comes the important part. Ask him or her what they will have to do to achieve that grade. Do not accept vague answers such as “Try hard” or Study more.”
  • Reference last year’s grade and ask how that high grade was earned or what they believe they might have done to make it higher. Push for specifics such as:

“Have all homework completed by nine o’clock,” “Write down all assignments in a homework log,” “Attend afterschool review sessions offered by the teacher,” “Be sure to take my math book to my tutoring sessions,” “Start studying for tests at least two days in advance,” “Get to bed by a certain time,” etc.

  • If the two of you disagree about an appropriate goal or strategy, consider simply writing both of those down and accepting your differences. Many students will disagree with you on the surface but can still take in what you have said and sometimes accept it as long as they are not forced to “agree” with you on the spot.
  • Save this list. Bring it out again when Mid-quarter Progress Reports come out and go through each class, comparing the Progress Report to the goals. You might revise some goals and some strategies; be sure to write these down and revisit this once again when the first report card comes out.

We have repeated this process for years with all kinds of students and have found that the process is as beneficial to very good students as it is to those who are struggling. Such conversations help put you more in the role of partner with your child and less in the role of judgmental authoritarian, and they help students toward the goal of being effective, independent self-managers.

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