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kids at school

Great Expectations: Helping Kids Succeed in School

By Stephanie Toelle, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent IV at UF-IFAS Duval County
Reviewed by Suzanna Smith, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida

The new school year is well underway by now, with students settling into their classrooms and starting to feel at home with this year’s routine. As a parent, I hope that my children are inspired by their teachers and supported by a circle of friends. I want them to blossom, and I’m sure you want the same for yours. What can we do as parents to ensure the greatest success for our children?

Expecting Success

I turned to research reported by University of Minnesota Extension, which found several factors that lead to school success. One of the most important is parental expectations.  Yes, we certainly do want to have high expectations of our children.

…Within Reason

But we also need to have a realistic and accurate assessment of their abilities in order to set reasonable and appropriate expectations for their achievement. For instance, if we know that our child struggles with spelling, it may not be realistic to expect him to get 100% on every Friday quiz. However, we can work with him to help him improve over past performance.

In addition to knowing their abilities, we need to be in tune with children’s schoolwork and activities so that our assessment of what they can handle is balanced. Is she overwhelmed right now? Or maybe he has a light load for the next nine weeks, or even for this year?

Set Goals

It’s also helpful to clearly state specific goals of performance and standards of behavior to our children. Make sure children take time to think about their own goals as well. Ask: What is your goal? What behaviors are necessary for you to reach your goal? Providing study aids and establishing good study habits will support students as they work towards academic achievements.

Delaying Gratification

Another important expectation to share is that of deferring gratification in order to achieve long term goals. Learning to resist an impulse or temptation that will bring only short-term enjoyment helps youth learn to focus on the long term, and to experience more successful school outcomes. Parental monitoring and guidance can help kids to stay on task here. Don’t forget to model delayed gratification through your own behavior. For instance, mention that you are holding off on a snack while you prepare dinner, or that you should wait until an upcoming holiday sale to buy some new shoes!

Key strategies to support academic success for your child include 1) expressing high, but realistic expectations regarding school performance and behavior; 2) setting realistic goals that consider workload and activities; and 3) delaying gratification to attain long term goals. With these keys, your child is on the road to success!

(Photo credit: UF/IFAS file photo.)


Christenson, S., & Peterson, C. (2013). Research on the standards for school success: Expectations and standards. Retrieved from