Every day at school, kids face new and sometimes daunting challenges. To help your child manage school-day stress and acquire good long-term study habits, be sure you and your grade-school student discuss all five of the following “Would you rather” questions.
1. Ask your child: Would you rather have friends who are very similar to you—athletically, academically, culturally, and socially—or meet students whose customs, culture, and interests are different from your own?
Why you should ask: Get to know your kid’s thoughts about cultural and political diversity, as well as what he values in a friend. It’s important for kids to connect with others who share similar values, interests, beliefs, and ways of thinking. But it’s just as important to appreciate each other’s differences because we can learn a great deal from the things that make us all unique.
What to do next: Encourage your child to take a genuine interest in learning about others by striking up a conversation with a classmate he doesn’t know very well. Urge him to be open-minded in school when others share their opinions. Model what it’s like to respect others’ differences and to listen with understanding when others talk about what matters to them.
2. Ask your child: Would you rather be placed in an accelerated class where you will be challenged by students who are very strong in writing or math, or in a class that goes at a slower pace, which may be less stressful but also less likely to push you to do your best?
Why you should ask: Kids may be reluctant to be placed in an accelerated class perhaps because they’re intimidated by the challenge or they’re hesitant to be separated from their closest friends. If your child is especially driven, she may thrive in an environment where she is pushed alongside other students who are strong academically and have confidence in their scholastic abilities.
What to do next: Help your child see that challenging herself goes much further than just earning top grades. As she succeeds academically, she will also learn the importance of taking calculated risks and building confidence in herself. That extra push in school might help your child embrace a new topic that fascinates her—and may even spark a lifelong passion for a cause or subject she loves.
3. Ask your child: If you were confused about a class assignment, would you rather go to your teacher for help after school, or go straight home to work on your own and hope you get it right?
Why you should ask: Independence is important but so is learning to ask for help. While it can be valuable for kids to learn from mistakes, they also should be confident enough to raise their hands to ask for clarification or help.
What to do next: Urge your child to have the courage to speak up. Doing so may help him avoid simple misunderstandings, such as doing an assignment incorrectly, and will encourage him to develop good communication skills.
4. Ask your child: If you could choose, would you rather give a five-minute talk in front of the class on a topic of your choice (and everyone may comment on how well you did), or write about that topic in a report only your teacher will see?
Why you should ask: Every child has different strengths and prefers to learn in different ways. Some kids may be more at ease speaking in front of an audience, while others may express themselves better in writing. However, in school, writing and speaking are both important. Knowing how to communicate effectively, in every form, is a crucial part of academic development and future success.
What to do next: If your child is afraid of public speaking, let her practice presenting to you; it will encourage her to overcome her fear of “messing up” in front of friends and help her gain confidence in her abilities. If your child’s writing skills need improvement, you might suggest keeping a journal so she can more effectively formulate her thoughts on paper—a skill she will need to master for exams and research papers later.
5. Ask your child: If you were dreading a big test at school, would you rather put off studying a whole chapter until the last minute, or try to understand the material a little bit at a time along the way?
Why you should ask: If your child habitually procrastinates or tries to avoid the task at hand, it could be a sign that he’s struggling to understand the material. The inclination to procrastinate until the eleventh hour will make his struggles only worse, especially if he tends to easily get overwhelmed or stressed.
What to do next: Teach your child to learn information in manageable increments along the way; it will make the “big test” seem less daunting and it will also help him form better study habits. Additionally, studying in advance gives him time to ask a teacher for extra help, go for tutoring, or join a study group.