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Your Ultimate Guide to Screen Time

These guidelines can set you on a path to better relationships.

Have you paused lately to look around at our technological world? From smart home devices to self-driving cars, it’s a lot to take in. And then, we have to guide our children on how to engage with all this – and talk about screen time. It’s overwhelming to hear all the different voices, from professionals to friends, telling us how our kids should use technology. Our kids are growing up in a world where digital identities are just as real as physical ones. And it’s not like there’s a well-laid out manual for helping your child navigate an ever-changing technological world.

You may be wondering, “What in the world do I do here?” 

We can ask a different question, though. It’s this: “How can my family use technology without allowing technology to use us?”

As you make your plan, consider your personal situation. Based on American Academy of Pediatrics research, these general guidelines can help you navigate technology use in your home. 

Screen time: the good and the bad.

Screen time isn’t wrong in and of itself. It’s all about how you use it. There are many benefits to co-viewing with younger children and using technology to promote learning and conversation.

Too much screen time can be linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Lower academic performance
  • Violence

Benefits of screen time:

  • Exposure to new ideas and information
  • Connection to family and friends who are geographically distant
  • Co-viewing and co-playing with your child can promote healthy development
  • Digital tools can promote school readiness or enhance learning

Recommended screen time limits per the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Birth to 18 months: No screens, except for video chats with family and friends.
  • 18 months to 2 years: Limit screen time and view with your child. Introduce high-quality educational programming.
  • 2-5 years: Limit screen time to an hour a day (outside of academics) and watch together, if possible.
  • 6-12 years: Place consistent limits on screen time as determined by the family. Ensure that screen time doesn’t impact your child’s sleep, exercise, or behavior.

Tips for setting screen time guidelines.

Be conscious of your screen usage.

The first tip is to look in the mirror. Kids learn from what they see. You may need screen time limits as much as they do.

Create a Family Media Use Plan.

Creating a plan as a family is powerful. Of course, you, as the parent, have to determine how much screen time your child has. But there is power in allowing them to craft how that looks and what other activities they can be involved in to ensure they exercise their physical and creative skills.

Utilize screen time limits on devices.

Most devices have parental controls for screen time usage. Use all the tools at your disposal.

Balance screen time with quality personal time.

Children need parental or caretaker engagement to develop emotionally and socially. Ensure that you’re balancing their screen time with your presence.

Avoid screens at mealtime.

Meals are a fantastic way to connect as a family. Focus the time on discussing what everyone’s day was like or asking questions to spur conversation.

Avoid screens in the bedroom.

A child’s bedroom is a great place to play and rest. At a young age, avoid allowing them to take screens into their room as much as possible.

Turn off all screens during family outings.

Screens can be distracting when the family is engaging in activities together. Turn off screens for all family members (parents included).

Unplug from screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Our brains need time to decompress and rest. Spend this time reading together to prepare everyone for a restful night.

What this means for you.

Your child is going to use screens. It’s how they connect with the world. Do your best to help guide how they use screen time in a healthy way. Sure, you may bend or break the rules at times. You may need to give in to more screen time ‘cause you need a break or have to get something done. That’s ok. Your child will continue to develop and grow. What they need more than strict tech rules is an involved parent. Make sure they are getting outdoors and playing and creating. If you haven’t navigated screens well up to this point, that’s ok. There’s no better time to start than the present.

Other blogs:

Seven Things Every Child Needs to Thrive

5 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Family – First Things First

How to Talk to Your Teen About Sexting – First Things First

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First

Sources:

Children and too much screen time – Mayo Clinic Health System

Physical Activity Counters Impact of Kids’ Screen Time

5 ways screen time can benefit children and families – Child Trends

Physical Activity Counters Impact of Kids’ Screen Time

Guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep

Media and Young Minds | Pediatrics

Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents | Pediatrics

Hey, Mom or Dad! If you’re like me, managing screen time for your kids can be a struggle. How much should they have? What impact is that tiny screen having on their development? What about when they’re on screens at school? I get it. The questions about screen time limits can be overwhelming.

There are countless articles addressing screen time for kids. 

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has several age-specific recommendations in Media and Young Minds. To name a few, they recommend no media for children 2 and younger and only one hour per day for children ages 2 to 5. Well, I’ll be the first parent to raise my hand and admit I dropped the ball there. 

Maybe you’re right there with me. If so, don’t feel bad. It doesn’t make you a bad parent. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting over the past nine years, it’s that we need to give ourselves (and our kids) a lot of grace. We didn’t get a parenting handbook the day they were born, and they didn’t get a child handbook, either. We’re all learning as we go. 

Now back to those pesky screens. They’re everywhere, and they’re part of everyday life. So, we need a plan to use them (and not let them use us).

Limiting screen time is very important for your child’s development, but limiting your own is just as important. 

Oh no, he didn’t just say that! 

Yes. Yes, I did!

You want to be a good parent. You know that the best way your child learns is through example. Your kids learned to walk and eat by watching you do it. Whatever trait they’ve learned, they learned from someone. Technology usage is no different. 

And this isn’t just about teaching your kid how to use technology effectively. It’s about you using it effectively and managing your screen time.

Setting down time from screens has many benefits

Here are just a few:

  1. It improves your physical health.
  2. Frees up time to play.
  3. Allows you to make better social connections.
  4. Boosts your mood.

Those benefits are for you, not just your kids.

I know I’m asking a lot. Don’t worry, I’m looking in the mirror challenging myself here, too. I need to set better screen boundaries for myself. 

So, where do we start? 

Here are a few ways you can help set limits for the entire family.

1. Create tech-free zones in the house.

Talk to your family and create some tech-free areas or times at home. The dinner table is an excellent place to start. Make a rule that while you eat dinner, no phones or TV. But what are you going to do? I’m so glad you asked. Take this time to ask questions. Check in on each other’s days. Grab a list of random questions and work through those.

2. Establish tech-free times. 

Maybe you can have a weekly game or movie night. A movie involves a screen, but you can put all other devices on airplane mode or away while the movie is on. Implement those movie theater rules. Set aside times for you and your partner to be tech-free after the kids go to bed. Be intentional about your time together.

3. Turn off notifications.

Turning off my notifications was one of the best things I ever did with my phone. The only notifications I get are messages and the weather. When your notifications are off, you choose when you use the technology. You don’t let the little ding dictate your usage. Researchers have even proven the little notification ding gives us a shot of dopamine.

4. Track screen time.

This one is for everyone. Most phones or devices have screen time or screen health settings. Track the usage for the family. Set sleep times for all devices and limit screen exposure before bed so it doesn’t interfere with sleep quality. Monitor what you use your device for and when. 

Modeling healthy technology use for your kids will help them in so many ways. Remember, not all screen time is bad, and there are plenty of creative ways to use technology as a family. Just being intentional about your usage and setting some limits can create positive change now and in the future. 

Other helpful blogs:

5 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Family – First Things First

When (and How) Should I Give My Child A Cell Phone? – First Things First

How to Create Social Media Rules in Your Marriage – First Things First

Sources:

https://ifstudies.org/blog/is-our-addiction-to-pleasure-destroying-us

https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/5-ways-slimming-screen-time-is-good-for-your-health

https://www.verywellfamily.com/cut-kids-screen-time-for-health-621154

https://www.verywellfamily.com/kids-and-technology-when-to-limit-it-and-how-621145

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/13/why-you-should-be-reducing-screen-time-and-3-simple-tips-to-do-it.html

https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/138/5/e20162591/60503/Media-and-Young-Minds

As the year rapidly comes to an end, many people think about making the next year better. The idea of New Year’s resolutions has been around for thousands of years. The practice of looking back at the past, then forward to what’s to come is the hallmark of creating New Year’s resolutions for yourself and for your family. 

Here are some must-have resolution suggestions for the different facets of your life.

Personal Resolutions: 

1. Practice gratitude.

Believe it or not, an attitude of gratitude and appreciation affects your perspective of the world and what’s happening around you. Gratitude helps you recognize that it could be worse – no matter how difficult something is. 

2. Care for yourself. 

Self-care is a trending term these days. You may actually be resistant to self-care because it can be seen as selfishness. However, at a minimum, it’s essential to make sure that you are eating and sleeping well, and moving. Intentionally taking care of yourself can make you a better person, spouse, and parent. 

Couple Resolutions: 

1. Practice “couple” time.

Spending quality time together can enhance your closest relationships. This may look different depending on your stage of life and interests. Be intentional about making time for each other in the new year.

2. Show appreciation.

Show appreciation for your partner affirms that you see them. It doesn’t matter how small the task is. Appreciation keeps you from taking your spouse for granted. Make a habit of trying to find the good in your spouse and watch what happens.  

3. Work on deeper connections.

It’s easy to get so overwhelmed with the busyness of life that we forget to connect. In the new year, be aware of how you can connect with your spouse during these four times in the day: 

1) When you wake up in the morning

2) When you depart for the day

3) When you reconnect after work 

4) When you say good night 

These little moments can totally impact how you build intimacy in your relationship.

Family Resolutions: 

1. Eat meals together. 

For years, dozens of studies have shown that family meals decrease substance use, eating disorders, and depressive symptoms. Family mealtimes also increase academic success and self-esteem. Additionally, eating together strengthens the parent-child connection. Schedule at least four meals to eat together. It can include Saturday breakfast or Sunday dinner. (Now you have two more to put on the calendar.)

2. Volunteer together.

Children can often believe that their wants, needs, and desires are the most crucial thing in the world. Volunteering allows them to get out of their world and help others. You might start small by helping a neighbor or planning to volunteer monthly at a local animal shelter. 

3. Take an annual family trip.

The purpose of a yearly family trip is to take time away from the day-to-day and have focused time together. It’s easy to get disheartened about financing a family trip to, say, a famous amusement park. Instead, focus on adventure and making memories that last a lifetime.

4. Unplug from technology.

Technology has become an integral part of our lives, but it can be a distraction sometimes. In the new year, make a conscious effort at specific times to step away from the phones, tablets, etc. Have a bowl near the dining room table where everyone can place their phone before you sit down to eat together. For a more significant challenge, take one day a month where everyone unplugs. 

5. Schedule weekly family fun nights.

Playing board games or watching a movie together once a week is great for bonding! You can share the games and movies that you enjoyed growing up with your children or discover new ones as a family.

As the new year gets closer, choose an activity from each category. Remember, your goal is to increase the connections in your family by spending time together. Start slow. You don’t have to do it all! Keep your focus on bonding with your spouse and your children. And remember to have a GREAT and prosperous new year!

Sources:

Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth

10 Ways to Connect With Your Kids This Holiday Season

Make your time during the holidays together worthwhile!

Staying connected as a family can be challenging during the holidays, especially after you factor in parties, school programs, family celebrations, and the everyday busyness of life. But don’t worry, connecting with your kids doesn’t have to be complicated! 

Here are 10 ways to connect with your kids this holiday season:

1. Play games.

A lot is going on right now, but playing games with your kids is a great way to connect. Mom or Dad, let’s be honest: We can sometimes see this as an inconvenience. Most games are pretty quick, though, and your kids will appreciate the time you spend together. So break out the cards or board games, and let them win a little.

2. Include them in the holiday prep.

If your family is like mine, you’ve probably been going in 10 different directions. That’s a lot for kids to take in. And they want to be helpful. Let them help with baking and wrapping presents. If you’re hosting a party, they can help get the house and food ready.

3. What’s their favorite thing to do during the holidays? 

There’s so much to do and so much fun to be had! Find out what your child loves to do and do it as a family. My oldest always wants to ice skate, so we’ll carve out some time after New Year’s to hit up an ice rink. Our youngest loves Christmas lights, so we take every opportunity to enjoy the lights. 

4. Sing Christmas songs together. 

Nothing says holidays like music. Let everyone pick out some songs and sing them together. Let the kids take the lead. Create a playlist for car rides. Maybe you can even go Christmas caroling!

5. Watch holiday movies together.

Grab some popcorn, ditch the electronics and watch some holiday classics. Maybe let each member of the family choose a favorite. A fun idea is to let everyone write movie titles on a slip of paper and drop them in a jar. Then you can randomly select and enjoy them together (without fighting over who goes first).

6. Try hot beverages together and teach them how to make their favorite.

You know what’s good on a cold day? A hot drink! Introduce your kids to a few different hot drinks and make them together. My 9-year-old loves to make hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and a candy cane. Get creative and help them discover what they like.

7. Set aside time to check in on them. 

The holidays are hectic for everyone. Rushing from work parties to social parties to school events can be exhausting. Your kids feel it, too. Set aside some time to talk and see how they’re doing. Listening can help you connect deeply with your kids.

8. Make something special for others.

Our family has two holiday traditions that we look forward to every year. We make peppermint bark for our neighbors. The kids have transitioned from just delivering it to helping make it. They love to give. We also bake cookies for first responders on Christmas. They love to deliver these to the local fire or police department. Ask your kids what you can do as a family to give back to those around you.

9. Serve the community.

The holidays are a terrific time to give back. Contact local organizations to see if you can volunteer as a family. Try your local food bank, homeless shelter, or the Salvation Army if you’re unsure where to start. Or try one of our personal favorites: Clean up a local park or neighborhood. 

10. Take a family day.

Most kids get a two-week break for the holidays. You may have travel plans and family gatherings that take up lots of that time. But take a day for just your family. Make it an adventure and let the kids help plan it. 

I’ve found that the greatest gift I can give my kids is my time. We love creating memories together. They may not remember the presents you gave them, but they will cherish your presence and attention. 

Other blogs:

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent

5 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Family

8 Tips For Setting Technology Boundaries In Your Family

5 Steps I Took to Be a Better Dad

Becoming a stronger father is possible.

Have you ever wanted to just do better as a dad? I mean mentally, physically, and emotionally? I don’t know your situation, but wanting to do better helped me start to become better. 

Some people think that a father is behind on child support because he doesn’t care or doesn’t want to pay. That may be the case for some people, but it was different for me. 

In my case, I cared very much. I wanted to pay. But I had a tough time. 

I wasn’t balanced, and sometimes I had to choose between paying a bill or paying my child support. I wanted my kids to have nice clothes or shoes when they spent time with me, so I chose to put the payment off. 

Now I see that wasn’t a great idea. But I thought money and buying things was the way to their heart, because one thing I could say about my dad is that he always made sure I had decent clothes and shoes. I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I thought education and having the right credentials, and finding jobs to make money would make me more successful in the eyes of my kids and family. 

But I realized my kids needed more than that. They needed me.

Here are some steps I took to be a better dad:

1. I had to own some things. 

To become a better dad, I had to understand and start with apologizing for what I needed to apologize for. I had to earn trust again, but getting trust back wasn’t easy. My kids needed to know that I would be there and that I was truly sorry for not supporting them or answering phone calls. Or not having the money to give them when they needed just a little extra to have certain things. But most of all, I wanted them to know I was just sorry for not spending time with them. 

2. I had to start listening to the people in my life.   

I listened to my kids and found out that they didn’t just want me for my money; they wanted me to spend more time with them. Also, I had to learn to control my feelings because others in my life have feelings, and they need to be heard. Fathers, listen: Sometimes your kids just want to be around you or be in the same household with you. Most men I know don’t like being told what to do or how to do it. But if you listen, you’ll learn A LOT. I know I did.

3. I had to accept that everything might not go the way I wanted it to go.

Being in and out of your kid’s life won’t make the kids call you “Dad.” So you have to accept it, and you can’t give up; you have to be willing to fight to become what they need. Show them that you will never give up. I’ll always try to become a better dad, no matter what.

4. I had to stay committed to my goals. 

I focused on staying out of jail by keeping a steady job and paying my child support. It was not easy. Still, I was determined to focus and buckle down because my kids needed the better version of me. I was and still am willing to become a strong, loving father.

5. I had to realize that dads make a difference.

For me, First Things First’s Dads Making a Difference class was very important. It taught me so much about life. I thought I was alone (as many men believe they’re alone in certain situations surrounding fatherhood). I had no idea that help was available to help me navigate the roadblocks and teach me to be a better man/father.

Everyone has their own idea for what it takes to become a better dad. It has been a journey that I am willing to take despite criticism and harsh words. I’m determined to become a better father, and these steps are just the beginning. 

Other blogs:

How Kids Benefit from Involved Fathers

Conversation Starters for Kids and Parents

DOWNLOAD: 10 Things All Dads Need To Do To Help Their Child Be Successful

As a proud mom of three sons, I’ve made my home more like a locker room than a designer showcase. I made sure there were couches and carpeting to decrease the likelihood of injuries. Despite all of the rough-housing and teasing, I just expected that they would be kind to each other. I never even thought they would need to “learn” to be kind. Instead, I felt they would catch it by watching me and automatically learn to be kind people. That’s not the case. Kindness is a skill that we must teach our kids, but it will last a lifetime.

Here are seven ways to teach your child kindness:

1. Model kind behavior.

I can’t overstate the fact that YOUR KIDS ARE WATCHING YOU. They are watching and listening to how you talk about your boss after a long day of work. Are you kind even when you are frustrated? It’s hard to tell your child to be friendly and thoughtful while your behavior toward others isn’t nice and kind. 

2. Give them opportunities to be kind.

Kindness begets kindness. Say something like this to your child: Hey, you know it’s trash day. I see that Mr. Smith’s can is still at the curb. Wouldn’t it be kind if we rolled it up for him? 

This may be a small gesture for an elderly neighbor, but you are sowing seeds of kindness in your child’s heart. 

3. Develop your child’s emotional vocabulary.

Just like we teach our children words for body parts, animals, and colors, they need words for emotions so they can express themselves kindly. Include a variety of emotions: sad, happy, angry, hurt, or embarrassed, etc. We also have to teach our children to watch body language and facial expressions. Play Emotions Charades with your child so they can learn different emotions and kind ways to respond or show how they feel.


THE GRATITUDE CHALLENGE

EASY ACTIVITIES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY TO CULTIVATE A MINDSET OF THANKFULNESS

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MAGIC OF THIS SEASON?

It’s easy to find yourself smack dab in the middle of the holiday season feeling frantic and totally unprepared for the flurry of meals, school programs, family get-togethers, and gift exchanges. It’s really hard to feel grateful when you’re STRESSED to the max. (Shocker, right?)

And you better believe your kids are picking up what you’re putting down. So if you want them to have a little gratitude for all that they have, a good place to start is intentionally expressing gratitude yourself.

This guide will help you and your whole family do just that. Download these free activities for all ages and start cultivating some gratitude magic!


4. Make kindness a habit.

Research has shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Create a list with your child of small things that you can do to be kind. Start the conversation with: I know this month we are trying to be kind to others. What is something that you can do daily? Examples include:

  • Smiling when you see someone.
  • Complimenting someone.
  • Saying please and thank you.
  • Creating a Family Kindness month. where your family performs acts of kindness.
  • Organizing a Kindness Club in your neighborhood.

5. Remember that kindness begins at home.

Home is the first place for our kids to learn about kindness. Your children must learn how to interact with parents, siblings, extended family, and family pets. Having specific expectations like not hitting and not yelling at others are ways to start the process. 

6. Recognize when your child is being kind.

Try to “catch” your child in the act of being kind. Maybe they fed the pet when it wasn’t their turn. Perhaps they picked up something they didn’t drop. Acknowledge their kindness by saying, Thank you so much. I appreciate that you ______________.

7. Encourage kindness – even when it’s hard.

It’s easy to be kind to someone you know and like. But how do you encourage your child to be kind if they don’t like someone? Or if that someone has been unkind to them? That’s tough. But you get to set the standard for kindness in any situation. 

You may have to have a conversation with your child to acknowledge that it may not seem fair or right. It might also be helpful to explore what that unkind child may be feeling or experiencing in their lives which may cause them to act unkindly. Lastly, praise your child for trying. 

One of my proudest moments as a parent came when my youngest son was in the 4th grade. His teacher texted me to say that he chose to sit with a new student at lunch instead of his regular friends. She said this student was having some trouble fitting in and the class knew and recognized it. However, the new student immediately became a part of the group through that one act of kindness. 

When we teach our children to be kind, we teach them to see the best in others. It also brings out the best in them.

How to Stay Motivated as a Parent

Here are 6 things to help you keep your motivation game strong.

As a parent, it can be tough to feel motivated when there’s so much to do: for your family, work, home, yourself – you name it. It doesn’t really matter what time of year it is – it’s always something. Fall can be a hectic season for moms and dads with all the festivals, gatherings with family and friends, and the holidays looming large. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with everything on your to-do list, or you just feel like you lack enthusiasm right now. 

If that’s where you find yourself as a parent, here are some ways to ignite your motivation as you and your family make the most of this time of year.

1. Remember that it starts with you.

It’s often easier for parents to live out Newton’s First Law of Motion, which states that an object in motion stays in motion. It’s hard to stop when you are overrun with things to do. The thought of slowing down is overwhelming. So we put on a happy and excited face when in reality, we lack energy and motivation. 

You’ve probably heard that “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s true! You have to find things that provide energy for you. It’s essential to understand that taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. Actually, it allows you to be a better parent.

2. Find ways to have child-free times.

Make time in your schedule to enjoy being alone. You may have to get up early or stay up late. You may have to resort to using the bathroom as an escape. Sometimes I find myself sitting on my back porch enjoying the sound of crickets and cicadas and watching the sun go down. Whatever you have to do, make space for yourself. 

3. Remember your why.

Most parents work hard to raise their children to become productive adults in society. Raising kids is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be times that you are tired. You may feel like nothing is going the way you planned or thought. In those moments, remember your reason. 

4. Find ways to enjoy your parenting journey.

When things are challenging, take time to reminisce. Look through old pictures and videos. Then, create new memories. Work together to find a new favorite dessert recipe and cook it together. Have an impromptu photo shoot. Go for a scenic drive and enjoy nature. Be creative and make it fun.

5. Live in gratitude.

Being a parent is one of the greatest gifts through the big things, little things, easy things, or hard things. An attitude of gratitude demonstrates that we are fortunate to have the opportunity to parent our children. (Not trying to give you anything else on your to-do list, but keeping track of your blessings and expressing thankfulness is actually good for you in so many ways!)

6. Find parenting mentors.

One way to stay motivated is by finding parenting mentors. Think about the people you know who have raised their children and exhibit the attributes you want for your children. Once you identify them, invite them out for coffee and ask them, “How did you do it?” Listen for tips that you can incorporate into your parenting. 

Parenting is easy. (Said no one EVER.) HAA! Parenting is one of the hardest things you will ever do. There will be times when you feel like you have nothing to give. Many of us have felt the same way, so believe me when I say you are not alone. Feel. What. You. Feel. Then find that drive from deep inside to help you get back on track so you can be a motivated parent. You are exactly what your children need.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Child Motivated in School

You can be their biggest encourager toward success.

Part of being a parent is being your child’s biggest cheerleader, encourager, and motivator. Our kids have a lot going on in their lives, and staying motivated in school can be a challenge. It’s a responsibility and a privilege to come alongside and help them discover what motivates them.

If you study great leaders or successful people, there’s often one key common trait: they are highly self-motivated. They have clear goals, take steps to achieve them, are passionate, and aren’t crippled by failure. There are numerous theories on what causes motivation, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, arousal-driven, or instinctual. It may be all of those or a mixture. But self-motivation is definitely a driver of success. 

You can help your child discover what motivates them personally and foster an attitude of self-motivation.

Here are 5 tips for keeping your child motivated in school:

1. Create a learning environment.

Let them know that your family takes education seriously. Help your child see themselves as a good student. See the world as an educational opportunity and find different ways to help children learn. You can help them learn in the real world by using the five senses and everyday activities (no textbook required). 

2. Stay positive.

This may seem obvious but being positive is the best way to encourage your child. Reinforce positive behavior with praise and support. Acknowledge when mistakes happen, then turn them into learning opportunities.

Researchers have found strong evidence that when students believe in themselves, they achieve more academically. The best way for your student to believe in themselves is for you to believe in them. Students care when they think that others care about them. 

3. Get involved.

According to the National PTA, the most accurate predictor of academic achievement is not socioeconomic status or how prestigious the school is that a child attends. The best predictor of student success is the extent to which families encourage learning at home and involve themselves in their child’s education.

When parents are involved with their children’s school, they have the support to thrive and develop a lifelong love for learning. Showing interest in their studies, volunteering at school, and staying connected to their teacher are great examples of parental involvement. 

Children with engaged parents are more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades,
  • Graduate from high school and attend post-secondary education,
  • Develop self-confidence and motivation in the classroom, and
  • Have better social skills and classroom behavior.

Technology has made communicating with teachers convenient, but it doesn’t replace building a relationship with your child’s teacher. Parental involvement matters more now than ever. In 2016, research showed a drop in parents who believe that parent-teacher communication is effective. Knowing your child’s teacher and making sure they know you matters. Get to know other school staff as well.

4. Don’t obsess about the future.

As a parent, I want my child to be successful, but what does that mean? Does success mean they attend a top-tier college and launch a successful career? Maybe. Does it mean they discover what they love and chase that passion? Possibly. Does it mean they find ways to positively contribute to society and make the world a better place? Absolutely! 

Your child’s education is essential, but don’t focus too much on what lies ahead. Help them discover what motivates them in school right now, and what makes them passionate. Help them see how they can contribute to their community now today. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in where we want our kids to go that we overlook living in the moment with them. 

The future is important, and we should prepare them for what lies ahead. We don’t have to sacrifice the present in the process. 

5. Reward effort.

Your child may be motivated in school by rewards, and that’s ok. Who doesn’t like a reward for a job well done? Research shows that external rewards can undermine students’ internal motivation for learning. The findings don’t mean, however, that incentives have a universally negative effect on internal motivation. In the same study, students who initially showed little interest in drawing and later received an unexpected reward for doing so chose to spend more of their free time on that activity.

Side note: It’s highly beneficial to reward effort as well as achievements. Maybe history isn’t their forte, and an average grade is the best they can achieve. If they’ve put all their effort into the work, it deserves to be recognized.

Although each student is motivated differently, if a student believes that hard work and persistence pay off, it strongly affects their motivation. Take the time to help them identify their motivators.

Sources:

The Importance of Students’ Motivation for Their Academic Achievement – Replicating and Extending Previous Findings

Motivation Matters: How New Research Can Help Teachers Boost Student Engagement

How Parent Involvement Leads to Student Success

How the Instinct Theory Explains Motivation

Other blogs:

5 Ways Positive Parenting Creates a Lifelong Connection with Your Child

How To Encourage Your Child’s Strengths

5 Ways To Help Your Child Be More Confident

8 Ways Kids Are Smart