It's hard not to jump for joy when your child gets an A on a test or announces that he or she won a spelling bee at school. However, when it comes to your child's achievements, remember that more important than the positive end result is the road your child travelled to get there. Surely, working for that A took a commitment on your child's part. Let him or her know that you're proud of his or her efforts and willingness to stick with the studying.
It is just as important to praise improvements; if your child brought his or her report card up from straight-Cs to all Bs and one C, congratulate this progress. Avoid insincere or hollow compliments. "Good job, but let's keep shooting for those As," isn't as likely to motivate your child to continue taking steps in the right direction as a comment that focuses on his or her accomplishment, such as, "You've worked hard, and it's paid off. I'm proud of you for making such a big improvement."
A big part of school and life is learning from our mistakes. The more parents provide their children opportunities to learn and practice new things, the better. For example, a child who takes up tennis may initially struggle to make his or her racquet connect with the ball. With practice, encouragement and coaching, your child will be more likely to understand what he or she needs to do to hit the ball, clear the net and more. Just as you wouldn't expect your child to be a flawless tennis player after an hour on the court, neither should you or your child expect every math problem or writing assignment to be easy. The key is to help your child learn from past challenges and apply that knowledge in the future.
To encourage independence, avoid interrupting your child during homework time to "show" him or her the right way to do a problem. Instead, let your child take his or her best shot. If your child makes a mistake, don't offer the right answer, but rather provide help to get there. In a frustrating moment, consider reminding your child of a time when he or she overcame an obstacle to learn something new. Whenever possible, guide your child toward accomplishments from the sidelines so that he or she can experience the excitement and pride that comes with overcoming a challenge all on his or her own.
A child's parents have the greatest potential to make an impact on him or her, particularly at a young age. Remember that young children are like sponges: they absorb everything. Because your child emulates you, maintain a positive attitude toward your own activities or work. If your child senses that you have a negative self-image or often feel discouraged in your own life, there's no doubt he or she will be influenced. Are you showing your child that you, too, are willing to persevere even in a difficult situation?
At the same time, your child needs to know that sometimes, we all try and do not succeed. Your positive attitude is important, but be sure that you don't overcompensate by making your child feel that you rarely have trouble picking up a new concept or activity. If your child is ready to give up on a homework problem or assignment, share with him or her a time when you experienced something similar, either in school, work or otherwise. Be honest about the outcome, and let your child know that it's okay to be stronger in certain areas than others.
One of the most important qualities you can impart upon your child before sending him or her off to high school and college is confidence. When your child feels confident, he or she will approach school and life with an unafraid and optimistic demeanor. Self-belief grows upon itself; show your child that you believe in him or her, help guide your child toward small successes and watch your child start to believe in himself or herself, too.