Part 2 of 5 in a back to school series

On average, teachers are with children about seven hours a day. What about the other 17 hours? Education doesn’t just happen in the classroom. Success in school is a family affair.

Parents are the most important teachers a child will ever have, said Renette Wardlow, human development specialist for University of Missouri Extension. Parental involvement will assure better grades, improve behavior and make school a more positive experience.

“Parents need to be very involved in their children’s education, and that starts with a positive attitude about education,” Wardlow said. When parents have a bad attitude about the entire school environment, that attitude tends to carry over to their children. “Just stay positive about it. Keep those negative comments to themselves.”

Don’t just tell your children; show them, she said. Demonstrate the value of learning by reading to your children. Have books available for them and model persistence and hard work.

“Parents are tremendous role models, whether they believe that or not,” Wardlow said. “Children often mirror what their parents say and do. And we all know that oftentimes young children, especially, will say what’s on their mind, or repeat what they had heard in the past. So we have to watch what we say and do.”

Wardlow suggests that parents set aside time every day to talk about school. Whether it’s during the drive to and from school, or during the family dinner, make sure your children know you are very interested in what they’re learning and how they’re doing in class.

She also encourages parents to help their children learn the things they need to succeed at school.

“Good study habits are absolutely essential,” Wardlow said. “I think that it’s important at the beginning of school time to set a plan—this will be study time, this will be the study place. It’s just a good idea to get the child tuned into a regular routine and a regular habit every day so that the homework really is a priority each night.”

Children can get very frustrated when they are trying to understand new concepts, Wardlow said.

“It’s important for parents to maintain that positive attitude and encourage their child,” she said. It might require sitting down with them to try to explain further what the assignment is about. “Frustration is just part of life and trying to minimize it as much as possible will help that child feel better about their school experience.”

Learning is a partnership between parent and teacher, Wardlow said. Be there for every parent conference and school event. If you see your child struggling, make an appointment with the teacher right away, and maintain good communication with both the teacher and school.

Staying active and involved in your children’s education will help them succeed at school, prepare them for a lifetime of learning and prevent the awful surprise of a bad report card.