Our son gets straight As -- here's how we raised him to succeed

Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesHow parents raise their children may affect their performance in school and future success.
  • School is challenging to some students, but to others, it’s a breeze.
  • Getting straight As in school is an impressive accomplishment that can lead to success later in life.
  • Though getting straight As is up to the student, how parents raise their children can position them to succeed.
  • Here’s how Scott and Frances Smith raise their 15-year-old son to get straight As in school.

Scott M. Smith and Frances Chiaretta-Smith have many reasons to be proud of their 15-year-old son. One of them is that he’s getting straight-As in high school. Business Insider spoke with Scott and Frances about they are raising their son to excel academically.

How did you and your wife raise your son to get good grades?

Frances: We try not to judge, and we understand that perfection is impossible. We were both good students, and he has an awareness around a “bar” that we had perhaps unknowingly set early on.

Scott: No idea, unfortunately. I try to respect him as an individual and give him everything he needs to succeed. Just last night we let him ride his bike to the library to study with his friends.

Honestly, a lot of it is just luck. Our son is a motivated individual who wants to do well.He’s not obsessed with being the best or anything, but he wants to be in the running. He’s never really been a difficult child. I think the universe knows I wouldn’t be able to handle that very well.

What do you think you did best as a parent?

Frances: Open communication. He feared failure and we stressed that failure is a part of the process. A good foundation and understanding allows him to move fluidly through life.

Scott: The best thing I think we’ve done as parents is have an open and honest relationship with him. We discuss almost everything, and we do our best to do it without unnecessary judgment or critique. I’ve always addressed him as an actual person, even when he was a toddler. I never talked down to him and tried to discourage others from doing so.

Do you communicate how his grades may affect his future options in life, happiness in the long term, or college/post-high school options?

Scott: Being a college dropout who now has to punch a clock, I do my best to advise him every day to avoid my mistakes and pitfalls.Unfortunately, when I was his age, my father was absent and my mother was sick most of the time, so I went through the second half of high school and early college floating around with no direction.

I wasted many, many years being unfocused and lost. I am adamant about being available to counsel him and offer advice and options for the future.I really want him to make a living doing something cool that he loves, not get stuck doing whatever comes along.

Right now he’s leaning toward being a sound engineer, and we are encouraging him to pursue that. I really want him to be fulfilled and excited by his work when he becomes an adult.

Art, music, extracurricular activities – do you participate in them with him?

Frances: Photography and music, and I used to love to write with him when he was younger.

Scott: He’s really taken to the guitar in the last couple of years and gotten very good at it. I’m doing everything I can to encourage him, he practices every day. Sometimes I try to jam with him, but I’m really bad. We have played together a few times over the years, we have guitars, drums and a keyboard. It’s probably more fun for me than it is him.

Do you impose any limits on his use of electronic devices, smartphones, TV, or other technology?

Scott: I made him turn off the NBA playoffs one night while he was doing his homework, but other than that we pretty much let him do his thing.

He claims listening to music helps him concentrate while doing homework, but I try to make him focus when it comes to reading. I don’t believe you can fully comprehend your reading while listening to music at the same time through headphones.

Otherwise, he uses technology at his own discretion. I think the phone usage is a little high, but I’m in the minority in my household as my wife looks at her phone just as much as he does.

Do you or your wife participate as class parents, chaperones, PTA members, sports coaches, etc.?

Frances: Scott coached for years and works at the school.

Scott: Yes, when able to.

Do you create any activities with your son that incorporate things he may learn in school to help him with his studies?

Frances: Community involvement, volunteer activities, to help him be aware of his social and political environment.

Scott: I try to balance him by teaching him some basic skills they don’t cover in school: Changing a tire, cooking an egg, mowing the lawn, how to shut off the water lines, unclog a toilet, etc.

Do you limit his socialising?

Frances: No – we believe it’s key to being well-rounded.

Scott: Absolutely not. He’s got a good group of friends and a girlfriend from a different school. He’s much more advanced socially than I ever was or ever will be. I spent most of my time alone, mostly by choice. Luckily he’s not a misanthrope like I am.

Do you encourage him to socialise with ‘good’ kids or discourage him from hanging out with ‘bad’ kids?

Frances: No. But I might mention he hates watching children misbehave and tells me when he doesn’t agree with parents who allow this in public – in church mainly.

Scott: He has a good sense of who he wants to spend time with, and we let him use his own judgment.

Does your son like getting good grades? Is he intrinsically or naturally motivated?

Frances: He’s intrinsically motivated.

Scott: He takes it upon himself to do well.

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