A Psychologist’s Back-to-School Shopping List

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Five things every student needs

It’s back to school time. My youngest is heading off to college. But it doesn’t seem that long since my kids were little. If you’re a parent of school-aged children, you probably have a long shopping list: notebooks, filler paper, backpack, lunchbox, pens, and pencils. And every child wants new clothes and new shoes. It can get expensive. Well here’s five things they really need that cost nothing. That’s right, nada. Zip. We ran across this list on psychologytoday.com by Gabrielle Principe Ph.D. This post is a summary of her thoughtful article. A link to the full text is at the bottom of the page. We may be just a Charleston cleaning service, but we love helping families in every way we can.

Praise children for their efforts, not their intelligence

Telling our children how smart they are doesn’t help them develop confidence or enable them to persevere when they fall short of their goals. By contrast, kids who are encouraged for working hard will learn that intelligence is a trait that can be improved with effort.

Make learning mean more to them than a reward

No doubt about it, offering rewards to your kids for schoolwork can get results. But children have an inborn desire to learn. Learning and the confidence that comes from it are themselves “a reward cycle that, if allowed to thrive, will persist for a lifetime.” Offering rewards can make even enjoyable school tasks seem like a chore. It’s true that some schoolwork, like memorizing things, can be dull. It’s up to us as parents to show them the benefits of the work. As Dr. Principe writes:

“Make sure that your children understand the real-world benefits of the skills they’re developing. Think of it this way. It is surely tough for a first-grader to understand why he’s being asked to memorize how to spell a set strange word, write them four times each, and then sort them into alphabetical order. But if his parents regularly read storybooks, street signs, store marquis, cupcake recipes, and restaurant menus with him, then he’s likely to understand not only why his teacher is asking him to learn new words but also that reading can be good fun.”

Encourage curiosity and make-believe play

“Children are natural born scientists.” From an early age, they carry out experiments, many of which seem aimed at irritating their parents. A recent study showed that “the qualities we see in young children in their attempts to figure out the world are the very same ones common to adults who are considered innovators and visionaries in their field.” Some of the most innovative entrepreneurs in history were raised in an environment where their inquisitiveness was allowed to flourish.

Lobby for more recess

Many schools have reduced or even eliminated recess. They do this in order to put more time into academics. But research shows that children pay attention better after recess. “They fidget less and focus more after free play.” And unstructured play is in itself a form of learning. Kids want to play, and in ordered to keep the unstructured play going, they have to cooperate with others, keep control of their emotions, communicate, and pay attention. These are skills they will find useful as well in the classroom.

Push for less homework

There is mounting evidence that homework is busy work that adds to family stress and does not contribute to learning, at least until middle and high school. And even then the benefits are reduced if there is too much homework. What is more effective? Dr. Principe cites research from the University of Michigan that,  for three- to twelve-year-old children, cooking a family dinner is a better predictor of better academic scores and fewer behavior problems.

So that’s the “psychologist’s back to school shopping list”. To read the full article, click HERE below.

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