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Every parent wants his or her child to be a “best student.” Please understand that when I say “best student,” I am not necessarily referring to those children who make the highest grades. Rather, I mean those students who come to school prepared to pay attention, accept assignments, and do their best, whatever their best may be. Here, then, are five tips for helping your child to be a “best student.

1. Make it clear to your child that disobedience is not an option.

Teachers consistently report that the best students are almost always among the most well behaved. Good behavior begins in the home, not at school, and even the best teacher finds it hard to discipline a child who comes from a home where disrespect of adult authority is allowed. Make the rules of proper behavior clear to your child; when the rules are broken, enforce them with a firm, even hand. New research finds that a child’s level of self-control is positively associated with school achievement.

2. Assign your child a fair share of day-to-day housework.

Again, teachers tell me that the best students are usually those who have daily chores at home. It makes sense, doesn’t it, that a child who comes to school already accustomed to accepting adult assignments will have fewer problems accepting assignments from teachers? The more responsible a child is within his or her family, the more responsibility he or she will demonstrate at school.

3. Limit electronic entertainment to nonschool days only, and even then allow no more than five total hours per week.

The research is increasingly unequivocal: screen time of any sort decreases attention span. Learning from a real-life, flesh-and-blood teacher requires that students be able to ask questions, answer questions, memorize, conduct independent inquiry, transfer what they’ve learned to paper, listen to the teacher’s feedback concerning their work, and correct their mistakes. One researcher once found that truly gifted children tend to watch no more than five hours of television a week. The national average is 25 hours per week, which is simply to say that if you want your child to be average or below, let him watch a lot of television.

4. Always be interested in how your child is doing in school, but take care not to get involved in doing his work for him.

There is a difference between interest and involvement. The interested parent says to the child, in effect, “I am concerned about your education, but it is ultimately your responsibility.” The involved parent says, “Your education is my responsibility.” Unfortunately, too many well-intentioned parents have unwittingly accepted or appropriated responsibility for their children’s schoolwork. The result of this parental benevolence is a child who has difficulty taking the proverbial bull by the horns. New research supports this high-interest, low-involvement parenting model.

5. If your child’s teacher reports a problem, give the teacher the benefit of the doubt, not your child.

As a rule, teachers are more committed to bettering the welfare of children than any other class of professionals. When a teacher says your child has a problem, academic or behavioral, it is with your child’s best interest in mind. Curb the tendency to become defensive. Listen with an open mind and an open heart. You may learn something that will help you become a better parent.

Family psychologist John Rosemond is the director of the Center for Affirmative Parenting in Gastonia, North Carolina. For information about his talks and workshops, contact Tracy Owens-Jahn at or (817) 295-1751.

Living With Children: Getting Ready for School

by John Rosemond
From the September 2010 Signs