The Easy Thing All Parents Can Do to Ensure Kids Get Good Grades

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Simply showing kids you believe that they’re capable of scoring A’s will make them more likely to actually do it, according to new research. (Photo: Erik Isakson/Getty Images).

School is out for summer, but it’s actually the perfect time for parents to start helping kids get better grades — by adjusting their own attitudes. According to a new study, how you view your kids makes all the difference in whether they earn good grades.

The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology on June 12, found that when a parent believed a child was smart, that child tended to do better in school, and when a parent thought that a child was less capable, that child tended to do poorly the following year — by .21 GPA points on average among the nearly 400 teenagers from 17 Northeast school districts who, along with their parents, were part of the study. 

Related: ‘Parent Report Cards’: Should Moms and Dads Ask Kids to Grade Them?

“Parents’ beliefs about their children, not just their actual parenting, may influence who their children become,” Alex Jensen, an assistant professor at the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University and lead author of the study told Science Daily

In reality, “you can never ensure that your kids will get good grades, because ultimately a child, and especially a teenager, is their own person who needs to learn to make their own choices, but you can try to create the best possible environment to set them up for success,” Jensen tells Yahoo Parenting. “Do that by valuing their strengths, and have the belief that they can succeed.” 

Related: How Smartphones Affect Kids at School

The trick to putting this productive encouragement into play is to first take an honest look at what messages you’re sending to your kids. “Parents should periodically examine ways in which they may be limiting their child’s potential, and then take steps to remedy the situation,” psychoanalyst Amy Morin tells Yahoo Parenting. Try getting involved in your child’s school, suggests Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. And before homework factors into daily life again, create clear guidelines and expectations about how and when kids should complete it daily come fall. “Help your child establish goals for the school year, and talk about how to meet those goals,” she advises. 

Then start the pep talks. “When a child tries something new, say, ‘I think you’re going to do really well at this,’” says Morin. “Offer words of encouragement before a test or before a big project, and your child will feel inspired to live up to that expectation.” Asking questions will guide you the rest of the way. “Show curiosity and inquire, ‘What sort of grades do you think you’ll get this year?’ Then work with your child to set a goal,” Morin suggests. “And ask your child, ‘What do you think you’re good at?’ The response can offer insight about your child’s perceived strengths.” 

Jensen added, “Be realistic in your expectations, but base them in ways that stretch your children and help them to work hard.” Just don’t forget to show your love for your kids along the way, urges family therapist Paul Hokemeyer. “When children know they are loved and accepted for who they are, they feel safe and secure enough to go out into the world and maximize their potential in it.” 

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