Building your child for success begins day one. When that child starts school, the success should continue. This is a critical time for the school-age child. The educational system has constructed a rigorous plan in an attempt to meet all state requirements for curriculum delivery and reporting. But, how much of what they offer develops the school-age child towards success. Many opportunities exist in the school setting with the potential to promote success. Somehow, the majority of these are only experienced by some. Three years of volunteering in the school system has allowed me to see the elements that build success in the school-age child. I would like to share them with you.
A child is naturally curious. We all went through that stage unless someone robbed us of it. Early in life and throughout the school years, this should be nurtured. Curiosity is the start of learning. Have you ever encountered that child that keeps asking questions and then their parents show up and say, “Stop asking so many questions” or “You talk too much”? What do you think that child will learn? Most likely, that child will learn to be quiet. They will lose the courage to ask questions. They have been shut down from learning and engaging in the way that kids engage best. Kids need exploration time. Time to discover life and investigate. When there is something they don’t understand, they need to be able to trust that someone will invite their questions and gladly offer an explanation. This creates a love for learning. Sounds simple right, but this patience is often not demonstrated.
Balance is the key with the school-age child. Their life should be handled just like a balanced meal. A portion of learning. A portion of play. A portion of rest, and a portion of responsibility. This doesn’t always happen in the school setting. That rigorous plan offered by the school system I mentioned earlier has very little balance. Testing and fast paced learning fills most of their day. Add in a short break for recess and a rushed lunch. Pushing too hard in one direction can lead a child to burn out. Balance provides an even platform, allowing the child to experience and savor each activity with enjoyment.
I have seen character building activities in schools. Sometimes they are implemented as a skit to demonstrate kindness. Other times, a story is read to introduce a talk about bullying. But, how effective are these programs if adults are not the examples of what they are teaching? I read some astonishing reports on teacher bullying. An article in the Education and Urban Society stated that 86% of 50 selected students reported at least one incident of adult physical maltreatment. Another report said 88% reported at least one incident of adult psychological maltreatment in school.
Making Failure an Option
Too many of our kids are afraid to fail. Somehow, they understood that they must get it right the first time. Failure really is part of building and learning. It should not be perceived as bad or that something is terribly wrong with the child. Failure offers the opportunity to learn about other options and create strategies. Failure is a word that gets parents and teachers on edge. Children observe those reactions and take note. I am not suggesting that you stand by and let your child become a failure. But, I am suggesting with much encouragement that you guide and support the process of developing success through failure. Failing a test or getting something wrong is not the end and that should not be the message school-age children receive.
Developing success for the school-age child can happen successfully. Incorporating the mentioned elements can be helpful. The work effort rests with parents, teachers, students, and the school system doing their individual part. I encourage you build and be the example our children need.
Whitted, Kathryn S., and David R. Dupper. “Do teachers bully students? Findings from a survey of students in an alternative education setting.” Education and Urban Society 40.3 (2008): 329-341.