Three “A’s” for a better school year


Looking for a few quick, cheap ways to help your youngsters have a better year in school? Here are three “A’s that may be useful.

ACCLAIM: Young people do far better when praised for their accomplishments. Bland, blanket praise can be counterproductive. But recognizing real progress and accomplishments helps young people be more positive, happier, and open.
Think about children learning to crawl, and then walk. Praise is a vital part of that process. Children may not comment when we thank them for keeping a room clean, or praise them for a fine math paper. But they notice. And done right, praise has a very positive impact.

ADVOCATE: Yes, we should stand with and for our children. Educators naturally pay attention to who shows up at parent/teacher conferences, who shows up at PTA meetings, etc. Educators also generally appreciate parents who help build connections between the school and other community groups. For example, parents with whom I worked helped our school with various field trips, speakers, publicity, donated equipment and cash donations. Most schools welcome this kind of thing. While advocacy can be carried too far, it is important for children to know that their parents do care, and are ready to work hard with others for them, and for their school.

ACCEPT: Many of the most successful people in the world had parents who encouraged them to explore and identify areas of interest and strength. This means, in part, that we should accept our children may, or may not be interested or excited about the sports or hobbies that particularly interest us. So even if we are great at things like hockey or weaving, youngsters may not inherit our talents or interests. The wisest parents will help young people explore, and accept their decisions about things like extracurricular interests.

These “three A’s” won’t guarantee a perfect year. But they will help reduce stress and lead to a happier home and school year.

Joe Nathan directs the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute