Many parents think that the more involved they are in their child’s education, the better the outcome. The contrary is true. Of course helping your child can be a great thing and children do need your help… to a certain extent.
Science now suggests that helping a child too much can actually be detrimental to their long-term success. In fact, the study showed that parents helping with homework and test prep can actually lower test scores! Naturally you want your child to succeed but it goes back to the old adage that you can have too much of a good thing. Here are a few ways you can support independent learning while still helping your child reach their educational and developmental milestones.
Believe it or not, your child knows what they need to succeed. Ask them what you can do to help them. Most of the time, if they need any help at all, it will likely be from a supportive position. For example, they may need you to be a flashcard holder or maybe they want you to help out with their next bake sale. Allow them room to breathe but let them know that you are there on the ready when they want your help.
Throughout life you’ll realize that success isn’t always having the perfect end result. Success is the act of achieving progress. Success is being better today than you were yesterday. The same principle is true for children in their academic careers.
When you offer incentives or praise for obtaining an A on a test or report card, you are simply praising results. Instead, try to reframe your thinking and praise their effort or progress. For example, let them know you are proud of how hard they have been working to learn their new vocabulary words or how happy you are they tried hard and raised their C to a B. Encouraging and acknowledging their progress and effort is much more likely to result in the same effort time after time.
It’s completely natural to want to protect your child physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, you need to realize that part of protecting them is helping them become independent human beings. One day they will go out into the world entirely on their own and their success hinges upon what you did to prepare them.
Provide them opportunities where they can practice independence. Their amount of independence should be commensurate with their age. For example, allow a pre-teen to prepare a meal for the family or allow a teenager the opportunity to go to the movies with friends. You want them to learn to be comfortable navigating the world around them and confident in their own choices. Even if you know the choice they make isn’t the greatest, let them do it. It’s okay to see your child fail as long as you are there to catch them when they fall.
Just because you want them to become independent learners (and ultimately independent adults) doesn’t mean you have to turn your back on them completely. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Think of your child’s life as them running a marathon. There will be roadblocks and pain along the way. You can’t run beside them but you can always cheer them on. Be their biggest fan but don’t be their safety net. Try phrases like, “Keep going, I know you can get it done!”
Part of your job as a parent is to provide children the tools they need for success. Set them up for a fair chance at learning by providing whatever kind of environment they need. Whatever it is that they need, make sure they have it. This includes an area conducive to studying as well as supplies like pencils and paper.
Sometimes the tools they need aren’t even material at all. For example, maybe they need someone to bounce ideas off of for a big project. Create a wholesome, welcoming environment where learning and innovation are encouraged and supported.
Never forget that the end goal of your parenting is to raise successful adults who can maintain healthy relationships in their personal and professional lives. Resist the urge to scoop them into your arms and wipe away all of their obstacles when things get tough. The greatest thing you can do as a parent is teach your children to become independent, compassionate, and resilient human beings.