With school starting in less than three weeks, what can parents do to ensure their children have a great school experience? It doesn’t take magic tricks or mind blowing advice from a flat headed monk on a mountain in Tibet to point parents in the right direction. All a parent needs to help their child have a great school year is a little common sense and a commitment to staying focused on important issues such as communication and school as a priority. Of course, a few of the other pieces of advice listed below won’t hurt either.
Back to School Advice for Parents
- DON’T get caught in the trap of believing the teacher is OUT TO GET your child. Teachers have enough drama in their lives without creating more by having a vendetta against your child, so take a pill and chill;
- DON’T speak negatively about your child’s teacher in front of your child. If you truly want your child to have a good school year, guard against speaking negatively about the school or your child’s teacher. If your attitude toward the teacher is negative at home, there is a very good chance your child’s attitude toward the teacher will be negative at school;
- DON’T wait until the end of the nine weeks to get concerned about your child’s grades! Stay on top of what is happening with your child in school from day one. Kids will keep parents in the dark about school as much as possible. If you do not believe that, your child has already pulled the wool over your eyes;
- DON’T leave communication entirely up to the teacher! It is just as much the parent’s responsibility to communicate with the teacher as it is for the teacher to communicate with the parent. Do not assume that no news is good news! Pick up the phone and call the teacher or email the teacher and ask how your child is progressing in class. Most teachers will do everything within their power to return your call or email in a timely manner. If not go through the principal, and request a face to face meeting. If a parent is in the dark about their child’s grades and progress, it is as much the parent’s fault as it is the teacher’s fault;
- DON’T act like a foaming at the mouth raving lunatic if you are upset with the teacher. When you approach a teacher in attack mode, the teacher goes on the defensive, the school office calls for security, you lose credibility, nothing is resolved, and your child ends up the loser. Educators often tell children they do not have to like their classmates, but they do have to learn to work with them. This lesson also applies to adults – both parents and teachers;
- DON’T be blind to RED FLAGS! If your child comes home day after day with no homework or saying they completed all their homework in class, that is a RED FLAG that should be verified with the teacher. If you rarely see your child studying or reading anything school related, that is a RED FLAG and should be addressed with the teacher. If you rarely see graded tests or assignments come home from school, that is a RED FLAG that needs to be followed up with the teacher. If you ignore RED FLAGS, don’t be surprised to see less than satisfactory grades at the end of the grading period;
- DON’T allow activities such as ball practices, ball games, music lessons, dance or any other activities to become priorities over academics. The odds are your child will never be a college athlete or a professional athlete, but the odds are extremely high he/she will spend their lives as an entrepreneur, salaried professional or hourly wage earner all of which require an academic diploma of some type;
- DON’T be afraid to stand up for your child, but when doing so, be willing to listen to both sides of the story before you make up your mind. You may have one of those rare special children who would never lie to you, but . . . . well . . . . well, here is the truth. ALL children will lie and fall short of the glory of their parents! Therefore, before you take sides, listen to both sides;
- DON’T do your child’s homework, report, or project for them! School assignments are about the child not the parent. You will not be branded a bad parent or disqualified for parent of the year if your child makes a bad grade! It is okay to be a resource for your child and point them in the right direction, but the actual work should be left up to the student. There is nothing sadder than a school project that has obviously been planned, written and built by an adult. It is sad when parents do not let children take responsibility for their own work. As humans, we learn as much from our mistakes, maybe more, as we do from our successes. For an adult, even one who means well, to deny a child the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them is a terrible waste of a learning opportunity; and
- DON’T allow your child to go to school without a good night’s rest! Sunday through Thursday have a lights out bed time for school age children including high school students who believe they are adults and such rules should not apply to them. Enforce your lights out rule! As the parent, you are the adult in the house, so act your part! If a television, computer, game console, tablet, smart phone, stereo or any other electronic device is a barrier to your child getting enough sleep to function properly the next day in school, remove the devices from your child’s room. This may sound a bit old fashioned; it is, but so is love, which is what parents are demonstrating when they have curfews, rules, and guidelines for their children to follow. Homes were never intended to be democracies! The home is where the child lives by the parents rules until such time they are educated, get a job, and build their own homes where they can do things their way. In an old fashioned loving home, getting enough sleep to stay awake in class, going to school, graduating high school and going to college or getting a job are non-negotiables.
As a parent what are your non-negotiables? Do you have any, or is everything open to negotiation? Just as there are non-negotiables in the home, there are also non-negotiables for school. Communicating with teachers, being positive, staying on top of your child’s progress, having academics as the priority, and making your child responsible for his/her work are all expectations that every parent should consider to be non-negotiable. If that is not the case in your house and these things are open to negotiation, who is the adult in your house?
©Jack Linton, July 20, 2015