Back to school success: What is the most important thing parents can do?

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Return to Contents: 2013 Summer Edition Banana Moments: Family Business Quarterly

Photo: Avolore via Flickr

One of the things that we assume to be true, but is not necessarily so, is that children naturally know what to learn. It is true that children naturally know how learn – they are learning executives, clever from the start. How many of you have experienced a toddler just learning to talk ready to dispute you over something she disagrees with?

The question is: what lessons will they learn? Who will they follow and will the lessons they learn serve them well?

Parents are the first teachers. Our job is to provide basic instruction on the self-discipline it takes to be a good citizen so that our children can go out into the world to learn and make contributions to their community and society.

“Our children only pass this way once. A parent is and always will be a child’s first teacher…” Dr. Susan G. Weinberger The Mentor Consulting Group

So one of the first lessons we can teach our children at home is the basic discipline required to learn at school.  Expecting your child to first be a good citizen in the classroom is pivotal for making learning possible. Disruptive and distracted behavior in the classroom makes learning difficult for your child and others. When your child understands that your job is to make sure they know what it means to “behave,” which is a form of self-control (or empowerment) that makes it possible to “learn” – this is a role clarification that makes for a very functional, focused student.

Secondly,  our children must be expected to do the work assigned to them. It is their product, not ours. The temptation of parents is to “help” with the homework, and advocate for their grades or getting their issues taken care of. When we become the ones primarily responsible for the homework and in general how they do in school, the lesson the child learns is “my mom or dad is the one responsible, not me”.  And they do not actually experience the learning that comes from doing the work themselves and establishing their own ability to take care of their needs at school.

And finally,  students need parents to establish a discipline at home for getting rest and having routines that provide some consistency at home making it a more productive environment.

Chinese proverb

  • I hear and I forget
  • I see and I remember
  • I do and I understand

In this regard, Principals weigh in on what is the one thing parents can do to help their children be successful at school.


Kelly Graham, Principal, Olympus Jr. High School, Roseville, Ca.

Kelly Graham, Principal at Olympus Jr. High, Roseville, Ca

“I think, at least at this age the most important thing parents can do is let them be independent [academic] learners and teach them to be self advocates. Helicopter parents can be crippling.”


Mike McGuire, Principal, Granite Bay High School, Granite Bay, Ca.


“Establish routines: (breakfast, rest time after school if necessary, homework block, when and where and whether music is on or not), bed time on school nights (what time: 10:00, 11:00, whenever).  Establish routines that underscore that school matters.” – Mike McGuire, Principal, Granite Bay High School



Kathy Lord (right) Principal of North Country Elementary School in Antelope, Ca. with Jason Farrel, Assistant Administrator rolled out The Leader In Me in 2012..

Kathy Lord, Principal, North Country Elementary, Antelope, Ca

“The most important thing a parent can do is support their child by supporting the school. A united front sends the message that our expectations are the same and we want what’s best for that child in his or her school program…

…Often, when a child makes a poor choice at school and receives a referral or phone call home, some parents immediately want to make excuses for their child’s behavior or blame other students. This sends the terribly wrong message to the child that he/she does not need to be accountable for his/her actions. Parents don’t realize that this sets up a “free pass” so to speak inviting further negative incidents which are most likely to occur.

Parents can be supportive by monitoring their child’s homework, making sure they have a consistent place and time to complete it, keeping in contact with the child’s teacher, and asking each day, ‘What is one new thing you learned?” Simply being interested and engaged in a child’s learning lets that student know that his/her education is important and what he/she does in school each day matters.”

Mark Williams, Principal, Victory High School/Rocklin Independent Study, Rocklin, Ca.

Mark Williams, Principal, Victory High School/Rocklin Independent Study, Rocklin, Ca.

“In order to ensure that parents get their students off to a good of the school year  is to have a good understanding of what the school expects of students…

…In other words, parents must be familiar with the [disciplinary] protocols and expectations as well as the academic expectations. The reason for this is that schools cannot do it alone and need the support and buy-in of the parents.”

Return to Contents: 2013 Summer Edition Banana Moments: Family Business Quarterly



Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM, Tuesdays. Her next book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.