Boosting your kids chances of being top of their class.

Help children succeed at school by using simple techniques to improve learning, say the experts.

By Lisa Salmon

If you want your child to get to the top of the class, it’s not nearly as simple as just encouraging them to work hard. Parents can play a huge role in helping their kids to fulfil their academic potential, and advanced learning expert Professor Deborah Eyre and education journalist Wendy Berliner, authors of the new book Great Minds and How to Grow Them, believe they know just what parents need to do.

Remember, IQ isn’t fixed

Eyre and Berliner explain the latest neurological and psychological research shows most children are capable of reaching the high levels of performance previously associated only with the gifted and talented. They stress that IQ and potential isn’t fixed – evidence shows it can be grown, and the key is developing the right learning attributes and attitudes.

Berliner says: “The vast majority of children could do really well at school, but unless parents play their part and help them learn the habits of high performance, they’re far less likely to get there.”

Parents can give kids a flying start

The pair have studied how top students learn, and how this learning can be replicated by virtually all children.

“The home is at the heart of this learning revolution,” Berliner stresses. “Parents are a child’s first and longest serving teachers – give your children a flying start at school with proven ways to boost learning.

“And keep things enjoyable – evidence shows children who do well at school have warm relationships with their parents.”

Six ways to get kids to the top of the class

Here are Berliner and Eyre’s tips to help your child to fulfil their academic potential:

1. Encourage resilience

Children who do well at school aren’t put off by failing – they keep trying until they get better. Your job when a child says they’re rubbish or can’t do something is to make them believe in themselves and keep going.

Don’t say: Let me do it for you.

Do say: I know it’s hard now, but you can do this if you keep trying.

2. Encourage planning and monitoring

Knowing how they’re doing – that they’re on track with their homework, for example – and knowing they need to put more effort into improving certain things, is very important to high performers.

Don’t say: Just start somewhere and muddle along.

Do say: How are you going to tackle this? Do you know you’re on track?

How can you tell you’re doing it right?

3. Encourage open-mindedness

Being open to new ideas is the hallmark of an advanced learner. Start with being open-minded yourself, and model what it’s like to be receptive to ideas that differ from your own.

Don’t say: What a stupid idea.

Do say: Isn’t that interesting? I never thought of that, but that’s such a good approach.

4. Encourage practice

It’s the only way to get better. Make sure it’s regular, deliberate and planned practice, working towards achievable incremental goals, and your child practices what he/she can’t do until they can do it well.

Don’t say: You’ve been practising long enough now, do something else.

Do say: You’re really good at that now, what’s the next step up?

5. Encourage curiosity

Curiosity is at the heart of all learning and the link with high performance is compelling, so encourage questions and model it yourself. Your job is to answer your children’s questions initially and then later encourage them to find out the answers themselves.

Don’t say: Stop asking so many questions.

Do say: I wonder why …?

6. Encourage critical or logical thinking

The characteristic most associated with academic success is the ability to deduct, hypothesise, reason and seek evidence – Sherlock Holmes is your model for this.

Don’t say: Why are you interested in that? Who cares?

Do say: Why do you think that happened? How could you work it out?

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