Involved Fathers – The Key to Better School Grades

Fathers want the best for their children, and we know that they’ll have a better chance of achieving success in life if they get a good education. Good grades in school will help them get accepted to colleges and universities, and good academic achievement will help them perform in their careers. Thus, just as we want our children to be physically fit and well-nourished, we want them to achieve academic success as well.

One of the glorious things about being a dad is that you can always make a difference in your child’s life – even in high school and college. It’s never too late to help your child achieve academic success, even if it’s been elusive until now. However, there’s no doubt that the influence we exert over our children in their pre-school years will have a far more profound effect on their ability to achieve academic success.

Pre-school Skills Development

Good grades in school aren’t granted, they’re earned. Our job as fathers is really to provide our children with the tools they need to achieve those grades. Certainly reading is one of the most important such tools – it’s said that very young children learn to read, but as they get older, they read to learn. Children who haven’t learned to read at or above grade level by the third grade are much more likely to fall behind, experiencing difficulty learning the subjects they’re being taught because their reading skills are substandard. Helping our children learn to read, then, is a critical part of the father’s job.

Other tools, such as self-discipline and intellectual curiosity, are more ephemeral, more difficult to nail down. Yet we can train our children in these essential areas.

Teaching by Example

Pre-schoolers learn by example, and the example they’re most likely to follow is that set by mom and dad. This is the time to exhibit the same qualities we want to instill in our children. When embarking on a project, for example, never give it up – never leave it unfinished. Children will see this and will decide that it’s acceptable for them to do the same. Likewise, to teach the Golden Rule, treat others as you want to be treated, not with contempt or intolerance. If you’re religious, try to live up to the principles of your faith – children will see hypocrisy quickly and it will confuse them. And if you want to promote reading, make a point of reading yourself – books, magazines, whatever. Be a good example!

Talking Together

As your pre-schooler acquires language and reading skills, and starts expressing ideas, spend as much time as you possibly can sharing together. Whenever you’re together, keep up a conversation – talk about the things you’re seeing and doing. This helps develop critical communication skills.

Children love to ask “Why?” – it drives parents almost to distraction sometimes. Yet it’s important that as much as possible, we respond to these (usually) legitimate requests for information, because they reflect the intellectual curiosity that’s so crucial to being a good student and getting good grades. If we train our children not to ask “why?” they’ll reflect that training in school, becoming silent observers of the education process, when they should be active participants.

Don’t Condescend

This next point can be a challenge: don’t talk down to your children. When they ask questions, or when you’re just explaining something to them, it’s true that you’ve got to couch your comments in terms that they can understand. You’ve still got to let them know, however, that you take them seriously and you don’t think any less of them because they don’t know what you’re trying to explain, or because they’re having a hard time understanding it. Remember – they’re just starting out, learning the most elemental of facts and ideas, facts and ideas you’ve known and accepted for decades. Don’t make them ashamed of their ignorance, or they’ll learn to mask it.

Perhaps a better way to view it is “helping my child to learn” instead of “teaching my child.”

Self-discipline

Self discipline and good study habits can also be developed in pre-schoolers. Many parents try to read to their children at bed-time. Make this an absolute priority, and use it as a tool to help your child start learning to read. Once those reading skills are better developed, children can read simple books themselves – at which point you can start setting aside time for this. (If you’re diligently promoting intellectual curiosity, a child at this stage will want to improve his or her reading skills, thus opening the door to more complex books with actual plots.) Don’t give up reading to your child at this point, however – just start reading the more complex material. If you’re doing it right, your child will want to impress you with the ability to read the new material as well!

Dad’s Relationship with Teachers

Of course, once children start attending school, they can put to use the skills you’ve helped them learn. Your relationship with teachers is critical as well – they need to know that parents are involved in their children’s education. Attend orientations and parent-teacher conferences when requested. Remember, though, that students earn their grades, and if your child earns a poor grade, arguing with the teacher is counterproductive. What good is a grade that’s been “adjusted” due to dad’s intervention?

The responsibility for a poor grade is your child’s. Find out the circumstances and help your child address them, but don’t hide your disappointment (don’t overdo it, either).

Homework is for Children, not Parents

Children should do their work themselves – if dad does the homework, how can the child be said to have earned the grade? Your job is to provide a good environment, free of distractions, within which your child can do homework. You also need to make yourself available to help out, without losing patience and just taking the job over.

In Conclusion

Being a father involves a great deal of work, yet if you view it as work, or think it’s too difficult, or you don’t think you can sacrifice the time, you’re approaching it wrong. Think of your favorite sport or hobby, and how much work and time is involved to achieve and maintain proficiency. Yet you don’t view that as work, you look forward to it and revel in doing it well. This is the approach you should take with raising children – put into it all the time necessary, and more, because more than any hobby or sport, your most valuable contribution to the world is your children, and how you raise them!