As the London Olympics come to a close and we begin our own rituals to celebrate (or commiserate) the end of summer, one image stands out in my mind: parents! Whether it was the cameo shot's of Fab Five families cheering their gymnasts to victory or swimmer Michael Phelps mom dancing a jig as her son earned 22 medals and became the most decorated Olympian in history - parents were in the stands, actively supporting their children. Some were single parents, some married, and some grandparents. What they shared in common was the huge role they had each played in laying the foundation for these athletic stars success.
Parenting styles are as varied as the colors of the rainbow. There are Tiger Moms, Helicopter Parents, Attachment Parents, Authoritative Parents and Boot Camp Parents. Whatever your style or family philosophy, the most important thing is that you take a positive approach to your child's development and have a clear, consistent strategy for success that everyone in the family understands and buys into.
It may not be your child's goal to compete in the Olympics, but as we begin another school year, every parent can learn a few lessons from Olympic mom and dads about how to motivate and prepare your children to do their academic and personal best. You can raise A's.
Success Strategy #1 - Go All In
Many of the Olympic champions had home videos of their first attempts at the pool or on the balance beam from when they were 3 or 5 years old. These home videos are prima facie evidence that their parents had gone all in - from day one. While they may not have been able to predict that thier little Pumpkin' would one day grow up to become a world-class champion, what is clear is that these parents had an attitude that they would be 100% supportive of the development of their children's gifts, talents and abilities. Get involved 100%. Go all in with your kids.
Success Strategy #2 - Make Your Home Success Friendly
Just as a rose cannot grow in a desert, children need a stable, organized environment to grow up in. You can make small changes that will create a home culture that is success friendly. Is your home neat and orderly? Is there a consistent schedule for homework and study? Do you model good behavior by having a positive attitude about your own life and advancement? Do you plan family activities that are both fun and educational? Are there limits to television and computer use? Think of yourself as the coach of a great team and your children are the star players. Talk about your ideas with your family. Discuss ways that you can work together to achieve your goals this year. Aim for the moon and you may hit the stars.
Success Strategy #3 - Find the Source for Every Resource
In these tough economic times, it is not always easy to find money in the family budget for piano lessons and tutors - however there are a number of free or low-cost resources available. Become like Sherlock Holmes and discover the hidden resources and program that will help your children develop their God given abilities.
The Brooklyn Public Library has a literacy initiative for children. More information can be found at www.everychildreadytoread.org. You can also check out the United Federation of Teacher's "Dial-A-Teacher" program which offers free homework service for elementary and middle school children. For more information call (212) 777-3380 or www.uft.org.
Your participation in the community life of your children's school will help them understand that education is an important family value. Make it a priority to attend parent-teacher conferences or send cupcakes to the school bake sale. Your presence will make a difference not only in your child's attitude towards school but in the school's attitude towards your child. Your presence tells educators that you value your children and that you will hold teachers accountable for their role in your child's academic success.
To succeed in school, your children must first believe that they can. So, become your children's greatest cheerleader. The most important resource that you can invest in your children's future is your unconditional love, time and unwavering support. Make it a great year!