Encourage Responsibility, Independence, and Active Learning

Taking responsibility, working independently, and engaging in active learning are important qualities for school success. Here are some suggestions for helping your child to develop these qualities.

Help Your Child Be Responsible and to Work Independently

  • Establish rules. Every home needs reasonable rules that children know and can depend on. Have your child help you to set rules, then make sure that you enforce the rules consistently.
  • Make it clear to your child that he has to take responsibility for what he does, both at home and at school. For example, don't automatically defend your child if his teacher tells you that he is often late to class or is disruptive when he is in class. Ask for his side of the story. If a charge is true, let him take the consequences.
  • Work with your child to develop a reasonable, consistent schedule of jobs to do around the house. List them on a calendar. Younger children can help set the table or put away their toys and clothes. Older children can help prepare meals and clean up afterwards.
  • Show your child how to break a job down into small steps. Teach your child how to do the job one step at a time. This works for everything — getting dressed, cleaning a room, or doing a big homework assignment.
  • Make your child responsible for getting ready to go to school each morning. Help him get used to getting up on time, making sure that he has everything he needs for the school day and so forth. If necessary, make a checklist to help him remember what he has to do.
  • Monitor what your child does after school, in the evenings, and on weekends. If you can't be there when your child gets home, give him the responsibility of checking in with you by phone to discuss him plans.

Encourage Active Learning

  • Children need active learning as well as quiet learning such as reading and doing homework. Active learning involves asking and answering questions, solving problems and exploring interests. Active learning also can take place when your child plays sports, spends time with friends, acts in a school play, plays a musical instrument, or visits museums and bookstores.
  • To promote active learning, listen to your child's ideas and respond to them. Let him jump in with questions and opinions when you read books together. When you encourage this type of give-and-take at home, your child's participation and interest in school is likely to increase.


Helping Your Child Succeed in School. U.S. Department of Education. First published in June 1993. Revised 2002 and 2005.


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