Characteristics of Successful Kindergarteners

Kindergarten teachers know, and research confirms, what a child needs to have a successful kindergarten year. It’s not how well he knows the ABC’s or whether she can write her name. The most important child characteristics that predict kindergarten success* are:

  • Motivation
  • Sustained Attention
  • Self-Regulation

Preschool is the ideal environment to develop these qualities. A developmentally appropriate preschool builds children’s motivation and joy in learning, ability to maintain attention to both tasks and teachers, and early social skills and self-regulation.

Parents can do even more to help their young child come to kindergarten with the crucial skills for school success. A valuable resource for home learning activities to build your child’s social-emotional and cognitive skills is the book, MegaSkills: Building Our Children’s Character and Achievement for School and Life, by Dorothy Rich. Rich lists twelve MegaSkills – Confidence, Motivation, Effort, Responsibility, Initiative, Perseverance, Teamwork, Common Sense, Problem Solving, Focus, and Respect. She describes activities parents can do at home to build these characteristics throughout childhood.

Building Your Child’s Motivation for School

Motivation for school may seem to be an intangible quality; but if your child is motivated, he will exhibit Confidence, Effort, Initiative, Responsibility, and Perseverance. Motivation includes both enthusiasm and discipline. It is the joy of learning that approaches new challenges with confidence and continues even in the face of discouragement. Rich describes it as the ability to face competition and challenges; to break down jobs into manageable tasks, to work against discouragement, and to keep going.

Build your child’s enthusiasm for school Begin to ‘talk up school’ well before the time for your child to begin. Show your excitement about starting school and tell the fun things your child will do in kindergarten. Read books about kindergarten and use them as a jumping off place to talk about the little worries and doubts your child may have about how much he is really going to ‘love school’.

Build your child’s discipline for school He will soon realize that school requires effort toward tasks that may not be easy or fun. Prevent the kind of discouragement that leads to problems with motivation. Encourage your child to try a little harder, to not give up, and to recognize when his effort pays off with successful mastery of difficult tasks.

Build Your Child’s Ability to Sustain Attention

Kindergarten-age children aren’t developmentally ready to attend for long stretches; but in the absence of a disorder of attention, they should be able to attend to instructions from an adult and kindergarten-level academic tasks. Abilities from MegaSkills that are related to Attention are Effort, Perseverance, and Focus.

Build your child’s focus for school Start with the basics, plenty of rest, good nutrition, and a structured home environment. Reduce stress and disorganization at home, and you free your child to be focused at school. Rich suggests teaching children to set small goals and take action to accomplish them, building the ability to attend to the steps in a task and to stay focused on the process of starting and completing an activity. Use a kitchen timer to focus your child on a task. First, time how long she can attend to the task, then challenge her to keep going a little longer.

Build Your Child’s Self-Regulation Skills

Children need to learn quickly how to control their impulses and to learn the give and take of a peer group environment. All of the MegaSkills are related to self-regulation, particularly Effort, Perseverance, Responsibility, Teamwork, Problem Solving, and Respect. Children with these skills will recognize that they must comply with the rules at school; delay fun activities until their work is done; and work and play cooperatively with other students.

Build your child’s self-regulation for school Teach your child to work effectively with a team at school by teaching them to work effectively with the team (family) at home. Successful teamwork involves a group working cooperatively to accomplish a goal. But, it also means that individuals are able to get their own needs met. Teach children to ask for what they need from others and to give attention to the needs of others also. Practice saying ‘no’ to your child. Help them learn to handle disappointment and frustration graciously.

Recent research finds that social and emotional competence is correlated with enhanced cognitive performance and academic achievement. Qualities such as independence, responsibility, self-regulation, and cooperation predict how well children make the transition to school and how well they master the early elementary grades.

By Kimberly L. Keith, About.com

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