Is for Dad: Ten Ways Fathers Can Help Their Kids Excel in School
by Stephan B. Poulter, Ph.D.
out at your local school and youll see it more and more: dads
dropping their kids off in the mornings. Dads carrying trays of
food in the cafeteria. Dads passing out cupcakes at classroom birthday
parties. Perhaps because women are busier than ever before, men
are venturing into what used to be mom territorys
school days that dont involve goalposts or baseball diamonds.
youre a father, there are big benefits to becoming deeply
entrenched in your childrens academic lives. Im not
implying that a fathers involvement is more important than
a mothers. Indeed, its important that both parents make
an effort, especially in an era when school is more demanding than
how, specifically, can dads get more involved in their childs
learning life? Here are ten suggestions (that of course moms can
use as well):
Make sure you meet your childs teacher and stay in touch even
if things are going well. The teacher tends to call you more quickly
to elicit support and help with your child if she feels you are
Dont be the dad who shows up ONLY when there is a problem
may learn that poor academic performance is the only way to get
Step foot in the school at least once a week. Take your child to
school, eat lunch with her in the cafeteria, go on field trips,
and so forth. If youre a divorced dad, this is a great way
to spend time with your children and to meet their friends.
Make time for your child to tell you about her day and also take
the time to tell her about your day. If you can establish a good
communication pattern and rapport with your child, she will be much
more likely to talk to you about any problems she is having.
Suggest that your childs school implement a program that brings
parents into the classroom to describe their careers. This is a
great way to help kids realize the broad range of opportunities
available to both men and women.
When helping with homework, dont take a Dad to the rescue!
attitude. If your child needs help with a difficult assignment,
work through it with him and help him understand how the process
leads to the final answer. If you try to solve problems for your
child, you will foster dependence rather than self-sufficiency and
Its okay if you cant answer a particular question. It
shows your child that no one has all the answers but
that its possible to find them. Help her find the answer.
Go to the encyclopedia or get online and, together, seek out the
If special tutoring is necessary, dont make your child feel
ashamed. And dont make her forgo other commitments such as
sports activities or dance lessons. Remember that her self-acceptance
is far more important than her success in school.
Keep reading to your child even after he learns how. This may be
especially critical for boys, who tend not to do as well in reading.
When your son sees you reading books and magazines, he gets the
message that reading is enjoyable and manly.
Dont be a math/science sexist. Its a common
belief that boys have natural ability in math and science, so parents
and teachers alike tend to encourage boys in these areas more than
they do girls. Dont fall into this trap. Realize that girls
who excel in math and science usually have fathers who are supportive
and rewarding of their efforts.
the idea of being deeply involved in your childs academic
life seems alien to you, youre not alone. Old habits die hard.
But when you realize whats at stake, you wont mind shattering
a few stereotypes. When you consider that children who have the
support of both parents have higher test scores and GPAs and are
more likely to go on to higher education, you wont mind putting
forth a little extra effort to make a big difference in your childs
Stephan B. Poulter is a licensed clinical psychologist with a private
practice in West Los Angeles, California. He has worked in various
settings with more than 2,200 fathers and sons in the last twenty-three
years. In 1998 he co-authored Mending the Broken Bough: Restoring
the Promise of The Mother and Daughter Relationship (Berkley Books)
with Dr. Barbara Zax. His most recent book, Father Your Son: How
to Become the Father Youve Always Wanted to Be (McGraw-Hill,
2004) is available at bookstores nationwide and all major online
booksellers or by visiting www.mcgraw-hill.com.
For more information, please visit www.fatheryourson.com.