Children adopt parents’ attitudes about school

Back-to-School News Distributed 07/11/08

A bad attitude about school can hinder a child’s future. Parents and caregivers can either help or undermine the importance of doing well, according to LSU AgCenter family life professor Dr. Karen Overstreet.

Children are quick to pick up on not-so-subtle signals from parents who complain about schedules, the cost of school supplies or the summer reading program. These attitudes imply school is just a nuisance and really isn’t that important.

“School is an extremely important part of a child’s life,” Overstreet said. “If parents and other adults place a high value on education, there is more likelihood that children will follow suit.”

Overstreet advises getting children involved with positive back-to-school activities that help them see education is valued.

“Volunteer activities can be a good way for parents and kids to work together, and they are tangible ways of demonstrating the importance of our schools,” Overstreet said. Some schools have community work days where volunteers come together to paint, landscape, unpack supplies or build playgrounds.

Roles for children depend on age groups, but planning for student involvement is important. A couple of parents or teens may plan activities for young children, while older children and adults paint or complete other tasks.

“The idea is for children to see the community involvement in their school,” Overstreet said.

She suggests letting children pick out school supplies or collect outgrown uniforms to donate to community groups. Doing so let’s them see that getting ready for school is so important that others pitch in, Overstreet says.

“Letting children make choices is another way of teaching them decision-making skills,” the LSU AgCenter expert advised. “Shopping at a dollar store, for example, makes it easy for younger children to pick out items and still be within budget, since the prices are similar.”

To practice, tell your child that he or she may spend $2 on supplies for the school supply drive, and let the youngster pick out the two items, she says, or older children may be encouraged to purchase items with their allowance.

“Spend time talking with your children – and listen carefully to what they are saying,” Overstreet said. Are they repeating negative comments they hear from others or from the media about school? Is it possible they have some anxiety about a new experience?

“It’s OK to admit you didn’t always look forward to the first day of school either,” Overstreet said, remarking, “After all, many of us don’t like to get up in the mornings or to do homework!”

Laughing over shared feelings is different from implying teachers are the problem or that school is bad.

“Challenge your child to figure out a way to celebrate the beginning of school by surprising someone,” Overstreet said. She suggests writing a thank-you note to take with freshly baked cookies to last year’s teacher or having a group of friends work with the principal to make welcome-back signs for the doorways.

“Children who feel some ownership in their school are likely to stay more involved and on track,” Overstreet said.

For related youth and family topics, visit the family and home link on the LSU AgCenter Web site at For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
Contact: Karen Overstreet at (225) 578-6709 or 
Editor: Mark Claesgens at (225) 578-2939 or

7/11/2008 12:45:08 AM
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