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6 Tips for setting academic expectations with your child

Setting effective expectations for your child in school can be difficult. It is all about balance and clarity. Here are some key strategies to keep in mind as you implement these goals with your student.


t Setting effective academic expectations is a challenging, ongoing process. There is no tried-and-true formula to follow, and the same expectations do not hold for multiple students, subjects or years. To further complicate matters, if you set your expectations too low, your student may not reach her full potential. If you set your expectations too high, you might set your child up for failure. Ultimately, you must encourage your student to succeed without overwhelming her. Here are six suggestions on how to do so.

Be clear

t Ensure that your child knows what you expect of her. “I will be disappointed if you earn a C,” or, “I will be proud of you as long as you study each night and do your best,” are strong examples. Do not force your student to guess what she must do to please you.

Be realistic

t There are only so many hours in the day to study, and you can only push your child so far. Large improvements do not occur overnight, they are instead a process that requires time and effort. Consider identifying milestone goals (a B on this test and an A on the next) that build toward a final achievement. Be respectful of your student’s limits and mindful of what successes are truly possible.

Adjust to changing circumstances

t Life happens, and expectations you set at the beginning of the school year may occasionally change. Extenuating circumstances arise; perhaps a class turns out to be more challenging than your child was expecting. Be aware of these changes, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Keep your student informed of what you expect of her, and speak with her about any difficulties she is facing.

Focus on effort

t Sometimes your child cannot control the outcome of her efforts. She can only do so much to ensure she is accepted to a specific college or elected class president. Rather than measuring success in terms of outcome, measure certain successes in terms of effort. Make goals about things your student can control. For example, try, “You need to do all your homework and ask your teacher for help after school.”

Be consistent

t Expectations are continuous, and they should not suddenly appear or disappear at the end of a grading period. Encourage studying every day, not just right before a test or right after a failing grade. Do not give your child the impression that it is fine to take it easy, only to then get angry when her grades drop.

Acknowledge success

t When your student achieves a goal you set for her, make it clear that you noticed. Tell her that she did well. Demonstrate that there is reward inherent in her efforts, even if that reward is an, “I’m proud of you,” or, “You did a fantastic job.”

t Remember that finding balance can be like striking a moving target, but with time and practice, it is an achievable goal, just like that A in algebra or that improvement in completing book reports on time.

tFor more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit

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