Don’t Tell Your Kids They’re Smart

In many states across the nation, parents, teachers, and students are gearing up for the first day of school. My sister, a teacher in Oakland, California, begins the school year today and has been “prepping,” as she says, for the last few weeks.

I know everyone feels differently about school, but I always loved it. I grew up in Brooklyn, and we started school after Labor Day. I loved everything about school: my new clothes, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, the cooler September temps, meeting my new teacher. To this day, my favorite season is fall, and I think the association of fall with school has something to do with it.

But maybe your kids aren’t like me. Some tweets show kids crying because summer vacation is over; others show older kids already jaded by school rules (no cell phones!). One tweet asks if it’s Christmas break yet.

To ease the transition from summer to school, here are a few tips:

1. A week or two before school starts, start adjusting bedtime.

It’s best to keep bedtime in force year round, but if you’ve let it lapse, it’s the first thing to re-establish. Tired, sleepy, drowsy kids can’t learn as well as those who are well rested.

2. Before school starts, talk with your children about the upcoming routine.

Just before bedtime–a time when most kids like to talk–ask them if they have any questions about school; then do your best to answer them or, better yet, find out together.

3. Don’t tell your kids they’re smart.

Research has shown that telling kids they’re smart can hinder their ability to handle mistakes as just another part of learning. Instead, tell them that you know they’ll work hard this year to do well, and that you’ll be there to support them.

4. You don’t have to spend.

$659 for an elementary school child, $957 for a middle school child, or $1,498 for a high school child, amounts reported by the Associated Press, are all higher than what parents spent last year. Save by buying at dollar stores, connecting with churches that provide free school supplies, and sharing with friends.

5. But do buy a few new clothing items.

Make sure the basics are covered; new underwear, socks, and shoes. A couple of new outfits will send the message: School is important.

6. Don’t just drop your children off.

Stick around to meet their teachers, classmates, and other parents. When my kids were in school, I used to take off during their first week back. And remember to take photos–and bring tissues.