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Ten psychological guidelines to prevent school failure

By psychologist Jesús Paños, specialist in attention and learning difficulties in children

When they go into the classroom to start a new class, children begin to see how their expectations and the reality of the new class come together. And what happens when this illusion is shattered and academic problems arise? Can we avoid so-called school failure before it occurs?

Psychologist Jesús Paños from Blue Healthcare’s Attention and Learning Difficulties Unit shares his perspective and gives us a series of clues:

1. It is important to adopt an effective educational style, but what does this mean?

Above all, we must provide emotional support to our children, this means being close, but at the same time being able to control and monitor their behaviour. Providing care and affection is the basis of education, but we must also teach and develop skills. This will bring security and emotional maturity to our children.

Therefore it is very important to establish an affectionate, close and positive emotional relationship between parents and children as one of the pillars of education and as a basis for the development of emotional intelligence.

Equally relevant is teaching our children to also trust their teachers and convey the positive message that they are important people who are going to help them improve and grow. When a child establishes a close relationship with their teachers, it will help them in both their emotional and academic development. Children should associate school with enjoyment and a fun stage of their life. Parents, for their part, should also establish relationships with teachers, showing closeness and attending tutorials and meetings.

2. Avoid overprotection so that our children develop the skills necessary for their learning and maturation, as well as their autonomy. This will give them greater security when making decisions without seeking constant approval from others. Excessive zeal can overwhelm the child and make him or her a fearful, insecure and dependent person. We must prepare and encourage them to gain autonomy and responsibility, as we did when we taught them to brush their own teeth or to ride a bicycle.

3. Teach autonomy. Let’s help children to be autonomous. This forces them to plan, think before doing, anticipate consequences of their actions, recognise behaviours in others, assess danger and be organised. These are all assets.

Gradually, we must enable them to face new situations, think, look for solutions and anticipate how to behave. Ideally, start early, as each age group can be autonomous to a certain point, depending on their psychological and neurobiological maturity. Tasks such as tidying their room, picking things up, helping to get dressed, packing their bag, taking care of their belongings and books and washing by themselves are good preparation which strengthen their self-esteem and help them discover their worth.

From time to time it is also very useful to help them look for new information on a
particular subject they have looked at in class and bring it closer to their lives with clear
and everyday examples. This will help them perceive learning as something valuable.

4. Encourage a positive attitude towards improvement and difficulties. Life is full of problems and the best attitude is to know this and accept that when they arise we have to spend time looking for information and solutions, not regret experiencing problems. Among children, creating a good sense of how to address problems strengthens their resources so they don’t feel vulnerable and fearful.

5. Encourage children to take part in healthy leisure activities. Participation in recreational and sports activities with other children is essential for good emotional development. It is important that they have fun, compete and face situations in which they may feel frustration and resolution. Sport also facilitates their learning and helps them free themselves from mental fatigue.

6. Help them develop good social and communication skills. Autonomy also implies mastery of a set of social skills that must be practiced. Emotional intelligence plays a key role in our education and development. Therefore, we must encourage them to ask questions, ask for help, know how to respond, communicate with others and express their emotions and thoughts without fear. In short, to be assertive and empathic. We must also support them when a problem arises and find solutions, so that they do not cut themselves off, but know how to face the situation in a relaxed way with self-control.

7. Set boundaries. Our children must understand that there are a series of rules to respect and duties to honour. Set clear boundaries and guidelines to be followed, explaining why. Let them give their opinion, as this helps with compliance and acceptance. Go over important dates, exams or work to be done with them, as well as trips and vacations.

8. Value their achievements and reward their progress. We must be proud of our children and happy with them when they fulfill their obligations and commitments. Our recognition is an incentive which encourages them to continue eagerly. Reward their daily effort when they get good grades, but also help them to spot errors and set guidelines for improvement.

9. Boost their capacity for self-control and help them accept their shortcomings. We have to help our children understand that not everything can be perfect, not everything goes the way you want and help them tolerate frustration. It’s good to let them make mistakes from time to time so that they understand the value of the success and how to get there. Encourage them to find solutions to difficult tasks that have led to a mistake and take the opportunity to explain that it’s good to look for alternative solutions.

10. Train their cognitive skills. Cognitive skills are key to their learning process from a young age, so use cards and games to develop attention and memory. It is also essential to help them plan, encourage reading and discover topics with the help of new technologies.

Preparing them for life is a process that aims to make them into responsible people who hold values and know how to reason, think and get excited. Educating, therefore, involves training and helping our children to learn new life skills.