10 ways to help your child excel at school

Could the road to academic glory be paved with diet tips and lax parenting styles? We take a look at the research behind what makes good students great.

1. Get involved at school

Keen to improve your child’s social skills and academic results? Several studies show that by getting involved with the school – be it chairing the P&C or helping out at the school fete – you can not only help your child do that, but you’ll also reduce the risk of them engaging in disruptive behaviour and absenteeism.

Feed them well to help your child excel at school.
How to pack the perfect school lunch.

2. Look at their diet

Lunch box contents sure have changed since we were kids, but be sure to pay close attention to how your kids are eating at home, too. Experts recommend eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids for optimum brain function, and drinking plenty of water to increase cognitive ability.

3. Read to your kids

Bedtime stories are not only a relaxing way to end the day, but research from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research shows that kindy kids who are read to nightly are soon almost a year ahead in ability compared with those who aren’t read to.

4. Choose extracurricular activities carefully

From coding to hip-hop dancing, the choices for after-school classes these days are endless, but research shows that if you’re looking for an activity proven to help with increasing your child’s academic skills, sport or (if started by age seven) music study is the way to go.

5. Watch your words

Contrary to popular belief, telling your kids that they are smart (regardless of the proof) doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to try to rise to the challenge. Instead, researchers recommend telling them they “worked so hard” when they succeed at something will make them more likely to take on, and excel at, further challenges.

6. Enforce bedtime hours

Is your child insisting on pushing back their bedtime? According to one study, losing just an hour of sleep a night can lower your child’s IQ. Aim to get 11 hours of shut-eye for 5 to 10-year-olds and a solid 9½ hours for 11 and up.

7. Let them make mistakes

We’ve all felt the urge to improve our child’s hastily pulled together project, but experts warn against getting too involved with their schoolwork. Research shows that having mum and dad act as a personal assistant can stop kids from developing confidence, resilience and a sense of responsibility.

8. Ensure homework is done properly

Although the jury is still out on whether doing additional schoolwork at home helps further them academically, research suggests background noise such as the TV serves to overwork your child’s brain so that information only reaches the periphery of their memory. Designate a quiet area in the house as the homework corner.

9. Pay your kids

Tempted to give your children cash in exchange for good grades? Researchers found that children often have trouble making sense of the work/cash connection. So you’re better off paying for habits that lead to better grades, such as giving them a couple of dollars for every book they finish.

10. When all else fails, seek professional help

If your child is complaining about tummy troubles or headaches so they don’t have to go to school, or they seem anxious or sad, it’s best to first seek medical assistance. Once you have the all clear from your GP, meet with the school principal to discuss possible causes for the behaviour.