City Life: Follow 10 steps to better your student's life

With school starting in Newport-Mesa next week, here is my Top 10 Things Parents Should Do to Raise a Successful Student list.

1.) Don't criticize your child's teacher in front of your child. When you have a beef with a teacher, don't undermine his or her authority by letting your kid know. Instead, talk to the teacher privately. Once your child knows how you feel, "my teacher hates me" becomes a good excuse for failure.

2.) Attend school events. As the parent of two adults, I can tell you that the old saying is true: You will never regret not having spent more time on the job. Your talk is cheap, your actions are everything. Let your kids know you care by making time for plays, games and other school events that come only once in their lives. And yours.

3.) Parents of school athletes: No coaching during games. I've seen too many parents, mostly dads, turn their kids off of the immensely rewarding participation in school athletics by giving them advice during the game. Knock it off. Not only are you annoying your athlete, you may also be giving advice contradictory to what the coach is saying.

4.) Turn off the $%&# television. Or the computer, or the cell phone. There is a pile of evidence showing just how bad TV is for kids and a new study shows it may even take years off your life. More than that, your children will usually mirror your activities, so think about what you want them to see you doing when they are home. (Hint: Reading is a key to success in school.)

5.) Use a carrot and stick. Reward the completion of homework with time spent doing something pleasurable. This approach will pay dividends for a lifetime as they learn the benefits of delayed gratification and adjust to the adult working model where benefits and advancement come after hard work, not before.

6.) Find your child's sweet spot. Every child is good at something. Discover it and nurture it. And if your child's area of expertise cannot be developed by the additional years of college, do not for one moment consider this a failure. Anyone reading this has more appreciation for the plumber at midnight than the egghead at noon.

7.) Speak up. There is no way the school board can know what you're thinking unless you tell it. And trustees will act — sometimes. Recently, they started an online registration test and created a new web page for local veterans, all of which originated with community input.

8.) Recognize the successes, teach the failures. What most kids want more than money for good grades is only the recognition — the attaboy — or girl. Do it often and they will understand the behavior you expect them to exhibit. When they fail, do not scold, just ask, "In hindsight, what would you have done differently?" This question encourages dialogue between parent and child and stimulates critical thinking, which is in shorty supply these days.

9.) Get involved. Test scores and grades will rise not when classes are smaller or the testing system is adjusted. They will rise when teachers are not spending 10 minutes on the Civil War and three minutes on the Great Depression. Who will launch a statewide campaign to reduce the amount of curriculum teachers have to rush through each year? No, not someone else — you.

10.) Don't sweat the small stuff. If your kid is doing well in school and is generally good, stop nagging him to clean his room. It just doesn't matter.


Share your 9/11 memories

Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001, and what were you doing when you heard the news? What was your immediate reaction? If you have kids, how did you share the news with them? Please send me your 9/11 memories to be included in next week's column.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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