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   by Cara Damier, B.S. all rights reserved
2121 NW 40th Terrace Suite B, Gainesville FL 32605
                                                            (352) 336-2888                                       CPANCF.COM

Parents would love to see their child bring straight A’s home from school. Some are quick to ask what might be wrong with the child when such goals are not met, often without fully realizing the degree to which both they, as parents, along with teachers have the capacity to directly impact their children’s learning potential. They may fail to realize that excessive focus on outcomes can result in feelings of failure and that small positive changes on their part can greatly influence the grades their child brings home. Fostering the right behaviors such as self-regulation, motivation, and awareness in your child will equip them with tools to sustain academic success autonomously in the long term (Zimmerman, 2002).

One essential behavior is learning to delay immediate fulfillment. Children who learn to delay gratification and exercise self-discipline have been shown to produce better grades and have higher student grade point averages (GPA) than their more impulsive peers (Duckworth & Seligman, 2004). Duckworth and Seligman also found that (within the normal general range of intelligence) self-discipline was a better predictor of school performance than IQ. Use your child’s interests as an avenue to develop self-regulating behaviors. A child interested in a certain subject will be more driven to learn on their own (Zimmerman, 2002).

Focus on including your child in the process of goal setting before beginning an activity. Decide on a clear objective. Model and practice self-observation and control during the course of the activity. Then, have your child practice self-reflection after performance to gauge their strengths and weaknesses. Practicing goal setting, self-monitoring, and self-reflection can help develop self-discipline (Zimmerman, 2002). This process can be applied to a myriad of interests that may include an affinity towards bugs or a love of numbers. A goal may be to build a small ant farm by the end of the month or improve average grades on math tests.

Find common goals and be creative. Your child will learn to actively assess their performance. Begin with small, easily attainable goals that are likely to guarantee satisfaction. This will increase motivation and the likelihood of seeking additional learning opportunities and greater challenges (Zimmerman, 2002). Over time this may allow your child to sustain motivation on more difficult and time consuming tasks and monitor their own success. It may then be possible to generalize the skills learned to other areas which need improvement and may be less enjoyable to them.

Become involved in your child’s school. Know their teachers and the school psychologist for your district. Every school district is required to have a school psychologist on hand. They can help to work with you, your child, and your child’s teacher to address specific concerns related to your child’s academic achievement and work towards improvement (Christenson, 2004). Private child psychologists may also be able to help you come up with activities that incorporate your child’s physical, mental, and emotional health.

Family involvement at home and in the school will improve your child’s academic performance (Fantuzzo, McWayne, & Perry, 2004). The example you set for your child is of most importance. Your child models your behaviors and attitudes about learning, reading and academics in addition to learning from your instructions. Children are like sponges and can pick up on the positive traits you foster in yourself. Focusing on and striving to improve your skills in various areas will motivate your children to do the same.

Finally, believe in your child and expect them to do well. Research has shown that the view parents hold of their child’s abilities and achievements correlates with the child’s view of their own capabilities (Fantuzzo, McWayne, & Perry, 2004). Your child will be well on their way to the top of the class by applying these simple techniques.

In some cases even despite good efforts and attitudes, great parental support, and involved teachers, children can perform poorly. Early assessment and identification of disorders such as ADHD, learning disorders, and other neurodevelopmental conditions can be critical in providing early intervention, success, and avoiding negative attitudes about school performance, reduced motivation, and negative self-esteem.

About the Author: Cara Damier,  M.S. was a psychology assistant with CPANCF when she wrote this article.  She has continued to pursue her career, earning her Master of Education degree in Counselor Education with a specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Florida Atlantic University.  She is currently a registered mental health counseling intern in Boynton Beach, FL.  Visit her website at


Christenson, S.L. (2004). The Family-School Partnership: An opportunity to promote the Learning Competence of All Students. School Psychology Review, 33:1, 83-104.

Duckworth, A.L., Seligman, M.E.P. (2005). Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents. American Psychological Society, 16:12, 939-944.

Fantuzzo, J., McWayne, C., Perry, M.A. (2004). Multiple Dimensions of Family Involvement and Their Relations to Behavioral and Learning Competencies for Urban, Low-Income Children. School Psychology Review, 33, 467-480.

Zimmerman, B.J. (2002). Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview. Theory IntoPractice, 41:2, 64-70.

originally publishied 10/28/13 in the Articles and Archives of Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida






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