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Dear ADDitude: How Should We Measure a ‘Successful’ School Year?

“Can you define a ‘successful’ school year? Most parents think in terms of grades, but for us that isn’t always an option and we want to reward our child’s efforts and progress.”

ADDitude Answers

You are right in thinking that a “successful” school year is different for every child. Kudos for rewarding effort and progress, instead of grades. However, it might be better to think in terms of a successful day, week, or month. Work with your child to set a goal for the time frame you choose. It might be handing in work every day or completing a project. You set the goal based on where the child is now and the areas that need improvement. Then reward the child when this goal is met. This way, you are consistently monitoring progress and giving praise and rewards throughout the year. A successful school year becomes a year of meeting incremental goals and making progress.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

ADDitude Answers

When my son was having trouble, the school didn’t want to help. I explained to him, “Mark, I am trying to get this resolved. I’ve asked your teacher several times, and I’m going to keep asking. I will not stop fighting for you.” I didn’t realize the power of my words, but he lunged at me with a hug. I knew, in that moment, that’s what mattered. It didn’t matter as much what his grades were, as long as I was still his advocate.

I believe in raising our kids with high expectations and not coddling them, but at the same time, we have to give them support to be successful. Talk to your child openly about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. That is ultimately what’s going to determine their success in life.

Posted by Susan Kruger, M.Ed.
Author of SOAR Study Skills: A Simple and Efficient System for Earning Better Grades in Less Time

ADDitude Answers

A certain percentage of our children have slow processing speed. My son was one of those. That means they read more slowly, write more slowly, produce less written work, tests take longer, homework takes longer. So that interferes greatly with their ability to be successful in school.

My husband always reminds me, “As long he is passing, you can leave him alone,” and that was really hard for me. I was a straight “A” student and I wanted my son to be. You have to recognize your child is not a clone of you.

I reached a point where I would greet him at the door when he came home from school and rather than say, “Hi, how are you, how was your day?,” I would say, “Have you got your books and your homework?” After awhile, I learned to let go. Your relationship with your child is the most important thing you have.

You must find time to enjoy your child’s company. Go to a movie, or get him to teach you something you hate, but he loves like a video game.

Our children are often very intuitive and when we send them constant negative messages: you need to get started, you didn’t do that, your room, then that is all they hear all day long. It’s important to educate your child. Say something like, “People with ADHD have trouble getting started and I know that’s hard for you.”

You need to be sure you are positive and give genuine praise. Help your kids them be successful by honoring them for their strength to persevere in school even when it’s hard. Focus on your child’s strengths. Often our children’s successes come outside of school in sports or art.

Posted by Chris Zeigler Dendy, M.S.
Educator, school psychologist, and mental health professional

ADDitude Answers

I learned over the years that academic performance can’t be the measure of success for my son. With ADHD, Asperger’s, dysgraphia, and significant anxiety, getting through the day without an emotional struggle has to be our main focus. After that, doing as well as he can based on his needs is our focus.

The last 2.5 years he had some extreme school avoidance and it was excruciating. Today was day 3 and not the slightest hint of refusing to go. In fact, on a homework assignment yesterday he listed perfect attendance as one of his goals for 7th grade. I was floored and so proud.

I feel like he’s doing great so far this year, because he seems happy and at peace with himself. Is it perfect? No. He has a binder for all classes and he came home with papers all over the place, in every pocket of his backpack, etc. It was a scavenger hunt to find what he needed for homework. And he didn’t want to do any homework. But I scribed for him and he got it done.

So, perfection and great grades not being our goal, I feel like his start of school has been extremely successful (by this time last year, he had already had a 2-hour meltdown at school and left early once).

Small victories!

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

Coming up with a plan for success for your child, together with the teacher and any other important people at school, may be the way to go. It makes a world of difference when everyone is on the same page about what your goals are. I have learned to shake off negative comments from well-meaning people who don’t understand ADHD. Hold on to comments and ideas that sound beneficial and let go of those that don’t.

Posted by Keeks

A Reader Answers

I remember being told pick three things you want to work on. Pick rewards for your child accomplishing these things. Post them on the fridge. Decide on a way you can gauge progress. For example: do something the first time the teacher asks you, start your homework before dinner, pick out your outfit the night before. Sit down discuss progress and rewards with your child.

Before moving onto new goals try to finish the first three. Try to not sweat the small stuff or any other things while working on those particular items. I don’t know if this makes sense but it can work. Try not to make it too complicated. Let your child help make suggestions and charts.

Posted by JulieBmotherof3

This question was originally asked in an ADDitude expert webinar. Listen to the recording here.