There are six things will make all the difference to how well your child does at school this year. Six things will make them feel happy to walk into the classroom, excited about what they are learning there, and able to use all their energies to play, learn and grow.
And you -- their long-suffering parent -- is the person who will teach them.
Because all six are simple, everyday approaches to daily living that will help your child feel loved, secure and balanced in their life, and adventurous, excited and well-supported in their learning.
1. Acquiring good attitudes towards life and learning. This means knowing how to be positive and optimistic in outlook, to be up for trying new things, to not worry too much about failures and set-backs, and to be willing to put time and effort into things that need to be done well. It also means learning how to laugh, to enjoy life, take pleasure in it, and to be grateful for good things
2. Being healthy and fit. Which means having a body and brain that is well-nourished, well-exercised and well-rested. Sounds so simple -- but the sobering truth is that the majority of children in school today are not eating the best diet, aren't getting as much exercise as they should, and are certainly not sleeping as much as their growing bodies and brains demand.
3. Knowing how to build good relationships. Because school is a social environment and a child who can be a good friend, and who knows how to have easy, honest and respectful relationships with teachers and other adults in their lives is already off the starting grid when it comes to getting the most out of school life. This doesn't mean they can't be shy, quiet or solitary. It does mean understanding about things like respect, honesty, sharing, listening and compromise, and knowing how they work.
4. Learning how to make good choices. Of course this complicated skill does not come easy, but children who are learning how to think about making decisions, how to consider their options, and how to reflect on how their choices affect others, will navigate school more confidently and resourcefully than children who expect adults to decide and do everything for them. Whether it's choosing what to have for lunch, when to do their homework, or who is to be their closest friend, a child's good decision-making is essential to effective learning.
5. Understanding how to be a good learner. This means understanding that learning is fun and interesting, but also sometimes hard work and frustrating. It means accepting that mistakes are an important part of making progress, and that it's good to ask for help when you need it. It means knowing that grades and test marks are only part of the story, that everyone has their own talents and their own learning journey, and that ultimately they themselves are the one in charge of how that journey goes.
6. Knowing how to be well-organized. Which might sound boring and dull, but is essential to doing well and feeling happy at school. The child who can learn how to organize themselves and their school equipment, who understands their timetable and can remember their sports kit, is the child who is not wasting time and energy forever trying to catch up with themselves and retrieve bad situations. Likewise, the child who can learn to mentally prioritise, focus, take responsibility and not be thrown off-balance by others, is the child who is well on the way to flourishing at school and in life.
All these things obviously start small with a young child, and grow and take root as the child grows. They take effort to remember and encourage. But even by simply setting the intention that these are ways in which you are going to help your child to live and learn, you will be giving them the best possible chance to soar in school.
And if you can also bear in mind that children never do what we say, but almost always copy what we do, and try to live your own life accordingly, the effect will be magnified a thousand times over.
Hilary Wilce's latest parenting book is "The Six Secrets of School Success", available from Amazon.