10 Things We Can Do to Help Our Sons Find Academic Success

Ebony Magazine has been running a series of special reports on “Saving Our Sons” in recent issues. Part three of this series in the July 2013 issue focuses on how parents can prime their sons for success in the classroom. Pick up this issue and read this report, as it is chock full of interesting and informative advice about the many ways parents can help their sons. Their list of 10 Things Parents Can Do For Their Sons, restated below, includes many issues upon which GCP has been focused since our inception. Most of them are relatively simple things which can yield big positive results. We’ve added in a few extra comments and resources in italics which can make the list easier to implement.

10 Things Parents Can Do For Their Sons

1. Don’t put a television in his room. Researchers have found that this can impede his intellectual and academic development.

2. Closely monitor his usage of the computer, cell phone and the music he is listening to. Make sure all media content is age appropriate. The list of media to monitor should also include films and video games. Go to http://www.commonsense.org for help with understanding what is age appropriate. Remember that age appropriate in your house does not mean the same thing in his friends’ homes. Chat with him regularly about what he does with his friends, and aim for a non judgemental tone to encourage him to share information. When he is old enough to understand, talk with him about why you don’t approve of some games, apps, sites or music his friends may be allowed to view. While you can’t guarantee that he won’t be exposed to inappropriate content, you can help him develop the tools to deal with it.

3. Talk to him as much as possible, beginning in the womb. Studies show that boys generally talk less and later than girls, and the more words children hear by their third birthday, the greater their chances for academic success. So as soon as you know you are having a boy, get to talking, and don’t stop until he heads off to college! Seriously, with smartphones and other technological gadgets distracting us on an alarmingly regular basis, we have to remind ourselves to talk to our children as much as possible, especially our boys. Put down that phone and pay attention, Mom and Dad!

4. Involve him in music and arts programs in addition to sports.

5. Feed him a healthy breakfast every morning.

6. Make sure he gets a good night’s sleep every night. Remove the gadgetry from the bedroom at bedtime. Putting him to bed with computers and phones within reach will give him cause to stay up later. Resist giving into his argument that reading on the computer helps him go to sleep. Researchers have determined that reading a lighted screen at night in bed makes it more difficult for the brain to shut down and get good rest.

7. As much as you can, sign him up for outside academic programs and tutoring, such as Kumon and Khan Academy online. Khan Academy, found at http://www.khanacademy.org, has thousands of free videos which provide brief but helpful instruction on a wide variety of subjects. Check out our GCP archives for more info on this great resource, and other outside help.

8. Particularly as he moves into adolescence, help him find an outside activity he loves that will help him to learn discipline and how to self regulate his behavior. Team sports works well in this area, but non sports activities work well too (e.g., chess, drama, etc.). Finding one’s passions is a key objective in life, and the sooner he is encouraged to find things he likes outside of school which require his focused attention, the better prepared he will be to pursue his passions later in life.

9. Do as much as you can to instill a love a reading. Read aloud to him and as he gets older read the same books so that you can discuss them with him. It is critical to continue encouraging your son’s reading and discussing what you both are reading even if he does not develop a love of reading (despite your best efforts). Don’t give up; let him know that even if he is not inclined to pick up a book on his own, it is critical that he keep up with his reading in school. As we’ve recommended in previous GCP posts, read along with your son’s English syllabi through high school (pick up the Cliff notes versions if necessary). Asking for and listening to his perspective of his reading not only gives you a sense of how well his reading comprehension is developing, it is also fun conversation, especially when he hits upon an interesting interpretation that hadn’t occurred to you.

10. Keep him engaged and stimulated during the summer, signing him up for camps and fun summer programs. If you can’t afford them, design a fun summer curriculum for him yourself. Check out the many GCP posts on Summer Learning in our archives for help with this.

Good stuff, Ebony. GCP readers, be sure to see their July 2013 issue for more information about how to help our boys succeed in school, and check out their entire series on “Saving Our Sons”.

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