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The Informed Parent

A Recipe For Success

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Oct. 03, 2011


When school began in August or early September, you and your children probably had good intentions and high hopes for the new year. Like New Year’s resolutions though, often these plans fall by the wayside. Now, six weeks into the semester, it’s time to review what makes a school year successful.

If your family’s good intentions for developing a routine conducive to a successful school year hasn’t quite come together, or if a routine never started, take heart. This month we’re going to look at three things that can lead toward success in school. All need consistency and cooperation between parents and children.


Most children and teens get an hour or more less sleep than recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. While there are individual differences, preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleep each 24 hours. Children from five to 10 years of age require 10-11 hours. Children and teens 10-17 years old function best with 8.5 - 9.5 hours.

A recent study by Dr. Avi Sedah at Tel Aviv University reported that a sleepy sixth grader will perform in class much like a fourth grader. He stated, “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development.”

As well as learning and functioning far below their capacity, children with a sleep deficit are more likely to suffer from colds and flu, have a decreased joy in learning, and have less ability to attend in class.

A reasonable and consistent bedtime, a bedtime ritual, and a consistent wake-up time help to insure that children receive an adequate night’s sleep.


Recently I worked with a family and their 12-year-old son. The parent’s bemoaned the fact that he didn’t keep his room clean. I spent time with this boy in his home and, indeed, his room was a disaster. As we tackled it together, it became apparent that his organizational skills were very poorly developed. He didn’t have a clue where to start tidying.

Many parents are unaware that children need to be taught how to organize. As young as toddler hood, children can be taught, step-by-step, how to pick-up their rooms and keep their belongings in order. Older children who don’t know how to organize need to be taught in the same step-by-step way. For example, say, “I want you to put all your shoes in the closet. Next, put all your books on the bookshelf. Then put all your underwear in the hamper. When you’ve finished that I’ll check, and we’ll talk about the next steps.”

Toddlers, young children, and older children without the skill will need assistance. Even with help, little ones can only handle one step at a time. Older children can usually handle three steps, but no more.

Parents of older children might think this is a babyish way to treat their children. Yet if your tone of voice and attitude are respectful, it will show them that although they are older, they need to learn a skill that was negated when they were younger.

Organization is only possible when the environment supports it. Baskets, plastic tubs, and enough shelf space are necessary so that toys and school supplies are easily put away and accessible. Shoeboxes make great containers for crayons, pens, and pencils. Perhaps the most important element is your modeling. If you are disorganized, children will not recognize the importance of a more orderly way of keeping their belongings. You may want to practice the steps toward organization together.


Parents and teachers often become impatient with children who don’t get their homework home, completed, and returned. Incorporating a few simple strategies can alleviate the homework problem.

Each morning, remind forgetful children to put their homework in their backpack at the end of the school day. If this doesn’t work, set up a contract with the teacher so that she checks with the child each afternoon to assure that the work will get home.

Establish a consistent homework schedule. If you are a non-working parent, soon after your child gets home in the afternoon is best. Provide a short playtime and snack. Then get down to homework. It will be finished with plenty of time to play before dinner. If you are a working parent, homework is best done right after dinner.

Many after school programs have a scheduled homework time. If your child goes to private daycare, encourage a schedule with the worker if you prefer to have homework completed before you return from your job. After the homework is complete, regardless of where it is done, it needs to be returned to the backpack. In the evening, the backpack should be put in a consistent place so that it’s readily available to take the next morning.

Sometimes parents believe their children should be able to organize their rooms and school responsibilities by themselves. This is not the case. They need assistance in maintaining a reasonable bedtime, in learning the skills of organization, and in completing homework. When young children are guided to use the skills effectively, as they become teens, many are capable of monitoring themselves. Some will need assistance as long as they live under your roof. Effective parenting takes time. It is less time consuming and more rewarding, however, than tackling the problems that arise when children don’t receive the guidance and boundaries necessary for becoming successful.

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