When it comes to educating children, our schools and teachers are incredibly important – but let’s not forget the critical role that parents play in helping students succeed.

As the oldest of 10 children, a mother of seven children and now a grandmother of 12, I’ve learned a few things about why being a good parent is so important.

Whether you’re a parent yourself or find yourself standing on the sidelines at a football game chatting with residents eager to help their children succeed, here are some ideas to consider.

Make sure they are healthy. That means getting them their shots, tracking their developmental milestones, keeping them fed, and seeking help when you notice or suspect something is wrong. Teach them how to ride bikes, take them to parks and get them moving.

Encourage them to be independent. As soon as you can, teach them how to take off and put on their own boots or shoes. Teach them how to go to the bathroom without anyone’s help.

Stimulate their minds. Take them to a variety of events and encourage them to participate in different activities. Have them tell you stories. When you are in a grocery store, help them find the items that match what’s on your list. Help them mix and pour in the kitchen. 

Read to them. Too many parents stop doing this when their children enter elementary school. Keep reading to them as they get older – or have them read to you. Learn about current events. 

Talk to them. Some of the best talks you will have with your children happen when you are in the car driving, when they don’t have to make eye contact with you.  Ask them what they did during the day to help someone else, which teaches compassion. Not every conversation needs to be serious. 

Support them in their studies. This doesn’t mean doing their homework, but it does mean helping them do it on their own. If they had a tough day or did poorly on a test, talk about what they can do better next time.

Let them do it. As children become teenagers, many parents would have an easier time if they followed this advice. They can make their own sandwich for lunch. They can do their own laundry. They can, in fact, make everyone dinner. We continue to do things for our high school kids that they can do for themselves. If we’d just back off, we’d find them easier to handle. 

Send them to school ready to learn. This may be a parent’s most important job, especially during those early years. It’s not your job to teach them math or social studies. But it is your job to send them to school ready to learn – and excited about the prospect.

As board members, all of us should think long and hard about whether we are doing all we can to help parents succeed in these areas. 

Irene LeFebvre