Friday, September 16, 2011

Who’s Responsible For Your Kids’ Grades - You or Them?

The school year is in full swing for most of our kids. Some of us have kids just starting Pre-K; while others have kids who are just off to college. No matter how young or old they are, our children are the center of our lives and bring us joy – well, for the most part anyway.

The years of formal education are so critical. In some cultures, this process is so instrumental that as children are born, parents already begin to implement certain measures to ensure that they get into the best schools possible. What kids eventually become in life can generally be traced back to their childhood and the learning environment established in the home.

My daughter is now in the 8th grade. My son is just 13 months old so he has a way to go before he enters the formal education system. With my children, I try to be mindful that now they are young and are under my care. But before long – especially with my daughter – these young ones will no longer be young ones; they’ll be off to college and then on to their chosen vocations. At that point, I can only give my words of advice; I won’t have the day-to-day influence that I now have.

So the question I’d like to ask with this post is this: Who’s responsible for your kids’ grades – you or them? I ask this question for a variety of reasons. Having been a child, who has become an adult with children, I see the different ways of looking at this question.

In my opinion, our children’s grades are a shared responsibility. They are a reflection of the learning environment that has been established in the home – and it’s the adults who establish that environment.

I remember when I was a struggling college student just hoping to get by, sometimes I looked at my grades and thought about the fact that a grade is simply a letter on a paper. Sometimes there’s an A, sometimes B, C and so on. It’s just a letter on a paper, right? But the difference between that letter being an A and a C is vast. There are a series of factors that come into play for the grade to go from one extreme to the other.

As our kids enter the formal education system, for some of them, that’s their first time in a structured learning environment. But for others, their parents have been so proactive in helping them to learn that entering the formal education environment is simply a continuation of what has been established in the home.

Did you know that, according to psychologists, 90% of brain development occurs in the first 3 years of life? What do 3 year old kids know? More than we might think. What we teach them and expose them to in those formative years will guide them throughout their lives.

The natural progression is that our kids enter pre-K, then kindergarten, then elementary school, middle school, high school and then college. As time moves along, they grow in many ways – intellectually, socially and so on. Their level of responsibility grows as well. What we expect of them at age 8 is much different from what we expect at age 18. It’s a natural progression.

Here’s the key to this whole thing: the sooner our kids learn that they are responsible for their grades, the better it is for all involved. I remember as I went through school – all the way up through high school – when I got my report card, I looked at it and then brought it home to my parents for them to sign it before I took it back to school. Why was this done? Because the school officials wanted to know that my parents were aware of how I was doing in school.

But guess what? When I went off to study at the University of Texas at Austin, it was a different environment. I didn’t have to take my grades home for my parents to sign anything. I could get straight A’s or straight F’s and as far as the university was concerned, it was up to me to do what needed to be done to get through the process.

My parents still cared and were involved so they wanted to see the report card but the university was more “hands off” than I was used to. If I failed, there are 50,000 other students studying there so it wouldn’t be a big deal from their standpoint. As I began to realize this, my mindset began to change. I began taking my grades a bit more seriously. In other words, I took responsibility for them.

And guess what? The more responsibility I took for them, the less involved my parents needed to be. They didn’t need to see my report card anymore; I was in charge of my schooling. But you know what? That didn’t happen overnight. My dad was a school principal and my mom was a teacher so from the very beginning, they helped to create an environment in the home where my siblings and I could learn.

Now Dad and Mom are retired and doing just fine. My siblings and I have become adults. Our “report cards” are now if the form of paychecks or business contracts and other tangible ways of measuring success. Our parents aren’t involved in our day to day lives are they once were. Our success is our responsibility. But our success is a direct reflection on the environment in which we were raised.

I encourage and challenge you as a parent to give your kids everything they need to succeed. I always encourage you to help them to get to the point where they take responsibility for their grades. When they do their part and we as parents do our part, that makes for a winning formula.

I hope that this post has been enlightening and insightful to you. We need to remember that raising kids isn’t a walk in the park. But if we do the best for them, things will work out. As my wife and I raise our young ones, these lessons are what we try to live by. And I believe that we will see tangible results from our efforts. I hope the same for you and yours as well; that’s what parenting is about.

Do enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad

1 comment:

  1. I as the academic writer strongly agree with many of the points you make in your argument. When parents make the decision to get involved with helping their children with homework, it is critical that they first understand the difference between helping and doing the work for them. Like you mention, if parents can regulate specific homework hours every day then the child will eventually develop proper study habits. Parents can do their best to answer questions the children might have, but it is necessary for parents to refrain from doing all the work themselves. This kind of help will only become a problem once the child is in a situation when the parent is not around. If children develop such strong feelings of dependability, they will lack the necessary problem solving skills for the real world. This situation is relevant to my personal life because I did not receive much help with my homework at a young age, and consequently it took me a long time to develop proper study habits. If my parents that were more strict about homework hours and rules than I feel it would have made schoolwork much easier in later years.