How To Teach Your Child to Have a Good School Attitude

Mother smiles at daughter who is doing homework.
Offering praise for hard work to your child will help instill a growth mindset. Willie B. Thomas via Getty Images

There is a secret to having children with a good attitude towards school. It's for you, the parent, to have a great attitude towards school. This connection isn't just common sense. It's confirmed in a review of several years of educational research.

In “The Broken Compass,” authors Angel Harris and Keith Robinson report that parental attitude is one of the largest influences on school success. They found three effective strategies you can use to create a positive attitude towards school.

Share Your Experience With the Value of Education 

Upper-middle class kids tend to be academically successful. One reason why: These kids hear about the importance of education during their interactions with adults. But they also see and experience it.

For example, if children observe their parents and other adults sharing stories from their college years, the children absorb the message that education is important and something they'll eventually look back on as both fun and valuable.

Harris and Robinson also found this positive effect at work in some families who are considered poor. The researchers found that many Asian families, regardless of financial status, still communicate the value of education to their children. 

You do not have to live in a rich neighborhood or spend your weekends hanging out with highly degreed scholars to let your children know that education can bring financial and social benefits.

How to Do It

Talk with your child about your own experience with school. Let them know what worked for you and what you would do differently. Your child will get to know you better and hear directly from you about the role education has played in your life. Keep the conversation focused on how doing well in school leads to success and increased opportunities later on in life.

Have High Expectations for Your Child in School

Another major predictor of school success is parents' expectations. An analysis of 37 education research studies showed a strong association between high expectations and school achievement (good communication between kids and parents about school, as well as good reading habits, were also important).

What this research suggests is that children and teens succeed in school because it is what their parents expect from them. Researchers defined high parental expectations as believing that children would go beyond earning a high school diploma and attend college or other post-secondary education.

How You Can Do It

You can have high expectations for your child by believing in them and expressing to them that you know they are capable of learning the material being presented in school. While almost every child struggles at some point, it's how you respond that matters. Help your child develop new habits or get extra help when needed. But take care to avoid putting too much pressure on your child.

Foster a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is the belief that you can become smart and successful by working hard to learn. Compare that to a fixed mindset, where you believe that people are born with ability (or inability) and it cannot be changed.

People with a growth mindset put in time and effort because they know that's what it takes to learn new material. People with a fixed mindset are likely to give up, since they believe their efforts don't matter.

How to Do It

Avoid telling your child that they are not good at a particular subject, like math. Instead, talk with them about what actions they can take to improve. Praise their efforts: "I'm so proud of how hard you worked on that homework problem" instead of "I'm so proud you got an A."

Another way to foster a growth mindset is to take a positive view when your child doesn't know something. Point out that finding out the answer is learning, which is how they become smarter. This places the focus on constant learning rather than valuing previous knowledge. A growth mindset focuses on how effort and actions produce success.

A Word From Verywell

Remember that values come through when you talk with your child about school and get involved in their education. Whether you are following up on homework or trying to help your child when they struggle, a positive, can-do attitude is essential. This applies to how you talk to your child, but also how you talk about your child's school and teachers in front of your child.

If you are frustrated with anything happening at your child's school, find a positive way to address the issue. Teachers have very busy, often stressful jobs working with a variety of children with a range of needs. If you think it is important for something at school to change, calmly bring up the issue to your child's teacher to learn more.

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Article Sources

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  • Castro M, Expósito-Casas E, López-Martín E, Lizasoain L, Navarro-Asencio E, Gaviria J. Parental involvement on student academic achievement: A meta-analysisEducational Research Review. 2015;14:33-46. doi:10.1016/j.edurev.2015.01.002.

  • Harris L and Robinson K. The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement with Children's Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.