A few moms and I were talking about our kids going back to school. We had a conversation about how to support kids without overhelping or underhelping.

I shared with them the 4 questions, that I have used for years with my kids, to help with school (and even parenting in general).

I call them P.A.C.T.

Note: Reword these questions to be age-appropriate for your child.

1. P: Purpose – “What are your goals for school this year?” (or “What do you really want to NOT happen?”)

Some kids have goals; other kids are more motivated by things that they don’t want to happen. Some kids have both. Start with whatever is the most motivating for your child.

Keep in mind that your child’s goal might not be about grades. They could have a goal about something else, like just attending school, feeling safe and comfortable at school, making one new friend, learning about a specific topic, playing in the band, or being on a sports team, etc.

Following your child’s passions is the best way to tap into their natural motivation, which ultimately will likely help them to get good grades too.

2. A: Action – “What is your plan to meet that goal?” (or “How will you know if you are on track?”)

It’s great for our kids to set goals and achieve them. And I’d argue that just as much learning and self-awareness can occur from making plans and tweaking them along the way. Check-in with your child to give them a chance to see if their goals are still realistic, still relevant, or if they need more support to accomplish what they want.

3. C: Contribution – “What things can I do that are helpful?” (or “What things do I do that are not helpful?”)

It probably happens to all of us at some point, we’ve had someone try to help us, but they actually made things worse. Let’s not do that to our kids. Find out how they want you to help, ideally ahead of the school year. Follow-up questions could sound like…

  • What are the least annoying ways for me to remind you about X?
  • What do you want me to do when Y happens?

4. T: Teamwork – “I’ve noticed that you [state your observation here]. How can I help?”

This is a nice question to use when your child is struggling. Making an observation about what you see is a less confrontational way to start the conversation. For example, you can say, “I’ve noticed that you are late for school sometimes.” “I’ve noticed that you don’t finish your homework sometimes.” “I’ve noticed that it’s hard for you to get out of bed in the morning sometimes.”


I hope these questions are helpful in guiding your parenting for the school year, tapping into your child’s natural desire for autonomy and motivation, and reassuring to you that you will know how and when to help.

Do you have other questions that you use to support your kids in school? I’d love to hear from you. Leave them in the comments below.

After reading the blog today, do you want more parenting support from me and meet similar parents?

You and I can personally talk in there if you’re struggling to figure out how to talk to your child.