How to parent elementary school aged children

Elementary school is a very important time in your children’s life. That’s when they acquire basic skills like reading, writing, math, etc., develop interests, discover their talents and acquire habits that will last a lifetime.

Here is how to make the elementary years count:

Set a curfew

A school age children’s day starts with an adequate rest. A child has to be in school by a certain time, therefore he has to be able to wake up and get ready. The rule of thumb is: if your child cannot wake up by himself at latest a half an hour before it is time to go to school, then he needs an earlier bedtime. By allowing children to stay up late on a school night, parents are giving them disfavor. This is something you need to be strict about.

Provide proper nutrition

Spending several hours in school, children need to be at their highest physical and mental level. Nutritious meals play a very important role in a child’s performance. A healthy breakfast is the best way to start a day. If you let your children buy lunch, you can go to the school’s web site and download the lunch menu for the current month. Often school lunches aren’t of the best quality. On a ‘bad lunch’ day prepare lunches for your children.

Teach discipline

Children need to be disciplined by their parents, but also they need to learn to discipline themselves. Homework given by teachers is meant to teach discipline, it’s not just for practice. Elementary schools have a schedule they follow every day. This isn’t an accident. A schedule also teaches children discipline: work first, recess later. They learn that once they are done with their work, there will be time to play. Reinforce that at home. First should come homework, than chores (you can post a chore list on your refrigerator), and after that games or TV time.

Encourage reading and writing at home

Practice makes perfect. Your children will not be good readers and writers unless they practice often. Make a reading contest for your children. For example, if they read 20 minutes a day, five days a week, they can get a reward at the end of the month, like: an extra TV time, or going bowling or swimming. After they finish reading, you can have them write a few sentences about what they read. You could ask prompting questions, like: ‘How did the main character look like? What was the most interesting part of the book? How did the story end?’ There are also several great children’s magazines, like Highlights, Kids Discover, National Geographic for Kids, Ranger Rick and many others. You can usually get the first copy for free. See what your child likes before paying for the subscription.

Check homework

Children should be able to do their homework by themselves. It is usually the same as what they did in school that day. Do not be tempted to overlook their shoulder and ‘help them’. It contradicts with the idea of independent thinking. However, sometimes children do need help. In that case, have them solve the problem the way they think it should be done and then check it. Point out mistakes and, if they do not understand the question, explain, but do not offer a correct solution.

Treat bad grades as opportunities

Getting bad grades in elementary school usually means that children do not understand the problem and/or they didn’t get enough practice. It isn’t the reason to punish them or to withdraw their privileges. Rather, it is a sign your child needs help. Elementary school level of learning is very basic and every child should be able to perform to at least the average standard (usually a C).

You may have to spend some time together, solving math problems or having spelling contests at home. At this age you shouldn’t consider hiring a tutor, unless your child has special educational needs. Parent/child time is the most important for the proper child development. It will not just ensure better school grades, but also will help to develop a lasting bond. In the end, improving in school will teach your child that work and perseverance pays off. It will also raise their self-esteem.

Pair down after school activities

Going to school is like having a full time job. Children, just like adults need their rest and time to ‘unwind’. Extracurricular activities should be limited for elementary school age children, although not forbidden. That means if your daughter wants to play piano and do gymnastics, you will need to have her chose one. At this age children are not thinking in long term goals, like for example getting a black belt in karate, but rather they want to play and have fun. They just want to learn some karate moves.

Unless they are determined and demonstrate a great skill in certain activities, you shouldn’t push them to continue an activity they lost interest in. The best time for exploring different sports and other hobbies is during the summer. There are numerous themed summer camps. Recreation centers in many towns offer a variety of activities, as well. Have your children try a few of them, without a long time commitment. Observe what they like and what they are good at.

Cheer your children on

In whatever they do, children need their parents approval. Let them know how proud you are of their achievements. Praise them for getting a B instead of commenting that they should have gotten an A. Encourage them to study, to read and write. From time to time you can reward them with a trip to their favorite ice cream shop.

Love your children the way they are. Your children need your love and approval no matter what. Do not compare them to other kids, and that includes their siblings. Do not make your love conditional. Your smile and encouragement is your children’s compass to their best success.