Five Common Mistakes in Children’s Education

February 4, 2020
Children's education involves a lot more than just thinking about their studies. You also have to instill a sense of responsibility, self-love, and independence in them.

It’s common to hear the phrase “there’s no manual on being a parent”. It’s completely true, of course. That’s, first and foremost, because every child is unique and standard instructions aren’t going to do you any good. Nevertheless, knowing some of the common mistakes people make in children’s education can help you avoid those mistakes.

Sometimes, the fear of making mistakes is precisely what makes you make it. In other words, the pressure of your surroundings can be very influential. That’s why we decided to propose a change of perspective. We encourage you to place value on a medial point between doing everything perfectly and just not doing everything wrong. You can identify and correct some of the most common mistakes when raising children you might be making.

“A pupil from whom nothing is ever demanded which he cannot do, never does all he can.”

-John Stuart Mill-

1. Trying to make geniuses through children’s education

Many parents feel the need to give their children tools for the future – a future they imagine as completely fantastic. This comes as a consequence of trying to make your children into geniuses. However, this has a very high price. In addition, it leads many parents to over-stimulate their children since they’re very young. That means schedules stuffed with activities and setting more and more numerous goals.

Philosophers such as Epicurus, Heidegger, and Byung-Chul have written books and analyses regarding the effects society ascribes to boredom. Currently, psychology and philosophy emphasize that boredom is important for creativity and the development of problem-solving skills.

Wanting to raise geniuses can also tend to make you frustrated when you encounter difficulties. It could even make you angry if you see negative results from your children. Many people lose sight of the fact that the education of young ones is a long-term project. Learning also involves trial and error, as well as a lot of patience. Another fact of life is that self-esteem plays a huge role in a child’s grades.

A boy dressed as if he's very intelligent.

Colin Rose and J. Nicholl described in a book they wrote a study that dealt with children’s confidence. The study found that 82% of children starting elementary school were very confident in their ability to learn. This percentage falls dramatically by the age of 16. By this age, only 18% of adolescents believe this and it falls even more right before they start their university studies.

On the other hand, making demands on young children can directly affect their self-esteem. They might feel as if they can’t meet your expectations. That could burden them even up to their adulthood, which could cause severe issues. They might come to lack motivation, and as American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”.

2. Focusing completely on academics is bad for your children’s education

When you turn studying into the center of your family life, the message you give your children is the most important thing. They might come to believe that you’re not seeing them as children. Your children might think you’re not taking their personal and emotional lives into consideration. The questions you ask them revolve around what they studied that day, their grades, and their responsibilities. The other circumstances or opinions aren’t important, or at least they don’t seem to be important.

Some parents come to stop asking their children to do chores because they want them to focus completely on their studies. Focusing solely on this can affect other areas. For example, your child’s social skills, acquisition of manual skills, sense of responsibility, development of personal tastes, and dreams.

Only taking interest in your child’s education is a big mistake. It means setting aside other important areas such as the development of their sense of responsibility.

3. Rewarding or punishing grades

Then, we come to the topic of grades. Many parents reward good grades. Alternatively, they might punish bad grades. This can cause you to ignore external and internal factors that influence a child’s grades. They might have an impact on your child’s concentration, performance, or attention. On the other hand, when you give constant external reinforcement, your child could lose internal motivation.

Joan Domenech is a teacher at the Fructuós Gelabert School in Barcelona. She says that the best stimulation for a child is the discovery of new things and the development of their interests. If you have to motivate them with external rewards, something’s not working. Remember that Marx also spoke against the dangers of capitalism. He warned against encouraging your children to do anything for the sake of obtaining a material object, as you turn them into small capitalists.

The best you can do is to praise their good results. You can do it by saying things such as “I’m very proud of you” or “You must be very proud of your efforts and results”. On the other hand, when their grades aren’t the best, try to analyze what could have happened along with them. That way, you’ll be able to correct mistakes together.

If they, for example, have trouble concentrating or with organization or if they don’t understand the material, they might need more support. They might even need additional classes. When you do this, you’re giving them the message of “What can I do to help you improve?”

“The road is long if one proceeds by way of precepts but short and effectual if by way of personal example.”

-Seneca-

4. Participate in your children’s education: study and do their homework with them

Many parents study with their children. This action can have a big impact on the present as well as the future. Depending on how you do it, you might be creating dependence. You might also be creating an unwillingness for them to face their schoolwork without your help.

A man helping his daughter with her homework which can be very beneficial for children's education.

Aside from that, bad help can lead to conflicts and problems. That’s because parents, as the primary educators of their children, don’t always have the best tools for helping them in every subject.

Let your children make mistakes. And remember that it’s their teachers’ job to correct them. Homework can be an excellent vehicle for educating your children. It can help them develop autonomy. As Piaget said in his work The Moral Judgment of the Child (1932), autonomy is a child’s ability to manage themselves and make their own decisions.

5. Questioning your school’s procedures

Another aspect, not less important, involves how many parents constantly question the procedures of their children’s schools. They might complain because the school gives too much homework, doesn’t assign enough homework, the homework isn’t helpful, etc. If you’re sending your child to a private school, that means that you agree with their ideology. If you criticize the school’s work too much, you’ll be sending conflicting messages.

It’s true that, in Spain, homework takes an average of 6.5 hours a week compared to 4.9 in other countries. But this depends on the school and the child’s characteristics, just to name a few factors. And it’s important for you to accept it. That’s because you’re the one who’s chosen it. That way, you’ll be setting a good example for your children. Then, let them make their own decisions when they’re old enough, so they can solve their own school problems.

“I’m not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you.”

-George Bernard Shaw-

There are no magic formulas to help you. Nevertheless, there’s a certain compass that might be able to point you in the right direction. For example, a Canadian plan with the name of 24-Hour Movement has some recommendations. They say children should get between 9 and 11 hours of sleep, at least one hour of exercise, and less time to use electronic devices.

Patricia M. Sarlé argues that more than two hours of recreational activities involving screens are associated with poorer cognitive development in children. As such, playtime should involve free play chosen by them.

Regarding a child’s studies, it’s important for you to be flexible and patient. You should listen to your children and put yourself in their shoes. Remember not to focus solely on your children’s education while forgetting the other aspects of their lives. Also, don’t ruin your relationship with them by becoming teachers or supervisors instead of parents.

Let them get bored, fail, and get bad grades so they can learn from their mistakes. Also, allowing them to be independent also makes them stronger and gives them references for their future. And that’s truly the best sort of education you can give your children!