Mothers and academic performance

HAPPY Mother’s Day to all our mothers. I am a mother and it is an honour, privilege, and joy, filled with many ups and downs as well as unconceivable love. The role of mothers in a child’s development is undisputed and their influence on their children’s academic achievement is significant.

The mother is invaluable in steering the child’s development. She guides, encourages and motivates the child on their life’s journey despite her economic circumstances. Mothers potentially play the most important role as educator in their children’s early lives as the first teachers, and they remain fundamental to academic success even at the tertiary level.

Hence, it is important that mothers be given the right tools to assist their growing children. By tools I mean that mothers as well as fathers, for that matter, ought to be taught parenting skills. We are not born parents and most are unprepared for the challenges of child-rearing. Think of an important endeavour that you have undertaken. Perhaps you were to give a speech, have run a marathon, made a presentation, or even did an exam. Would you do any of these without preparation? I think the answer is no. We would prepare.

Yet it seems that we approach parenting with the perception that we should just know what to do naturally. It is believed that because of the deep maternal love that we have for our children, mothering becomes intuitive and everything will simply fall into place. This is certainly not the case and the reality of the task can be overwhelming.

From day one, learning to feed and care for your baby is anxiety-ridden. During their development, new and unexpected challenges are always around the corner. Is it time that we consider parenting classes as a standard necessity for soon-to be parents as well as existing parents? While these classes cannot be made compulsory, can we examine ways of going into communities and educating parents on certain best practices? Such a national parenting initiative would not be a one class endeavour but would be an ongoing community effort. Most assuredly, this would have a tremendous impact on the progress of our future generation.

During my numerous years as an educator, I have had to interact with many parents who all wanted the very best for their offspring. In my case, they are particularly concerned with their children’s academic performance. While I do interact with many fathers, most of my parent interactions are with mothers. Often, these mothers are stressed out and pulling their hair out trying to increase scholastic success. This stress is picked up by the children and can actually hinder progress.

I do not presume to have the prescription for academic success, but I do have many tips that can help. I have listed a few below.

How moms can help children succeed

1) Communicate with your children daily. Express why you believe it is important for them to do well at school. Talking and listening play major roles in student success. Show interest in what they are learning at school even if you do not understand the subject matter. Ask about their friends and fun activities as well, not only academics.

2) Praise your children for effort, improvements, and good grades. This will work wonders on their self-esteem. Ensure that they know that you believe in their ability to do well even if they may have fallen down in some subjects. You must always encourage. I strongly discourage the scolding and rebuking of your child for poor school performance.

3) Have regular chats about dreams and future plans, but be sure not to project your own desires on them. Ask intentional questions to obtain answers about your child’s ambitions. This will incite them to formulate their own individual goals.

4) Read with young children and encourage your teens to read. You can even share newspaper articles you may find interesting with them. Demonstrate that you value reading by letting your child see that you read for pleasure as well as for information. It still amazes me that many of today’s teenagers have never opened a newspaper.

5) Teach good study habits. Unfortunately, study habits are not taught to students and so they are basically ‘driving blind’. Study techniques can be taught and learnt. These are steps to make the process of retaining and understanding material that much simpler and less time-consuming. No child should be burying his or her head in a book for hours on end. This is totally ineffective and a waste of time that leads to burnout, anxiety and stress in the child.

Dr Karla Hylton is the Founder and CEO of Your Empowerment Solutions (YES) Institute, offering a host of workshops and science tutoring services. She is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, e-mail ceo@yes-institute.com, or visit www.yes-institute.com, www.khylton.com.

Dr Karla Hylton

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