Wouldn't it be great if there was a "Parenting Tool Box" where no matter what issue, problem, or concern a child presents, you could reach into your tool box like a carpenter and come up with the perfect tool for the job or, what if every child were to be born with their own "How to Manual." Unfortunately, that app doesn't exist yet, but perhaps someone is working on it. Until then, I guess "Parenting is a Required Course," which means, with the growing needs of children and adolescents, the challenges they face and influences impacting their life, parents needs to do more than rely on the way they were parented, as the best tool for the job. That's not to say that mom or dad didn't do a good job for some of us, however, things have gotten a bit more hectic for parents in the last 20 or 30 years.
However, they're still some basics to keep in mind because they work. So as you get back to the world of backpacks, lunches, carpools, homework, teacher conferences, and report cards, here are some "not so" simple, but tired and true tips for your parenting tool box that will help you support a year of school success.
School is stressful. Yes, school did begin several weeks ago, but recognize going back to school for many children does cause some problems that can result in a difficult school year. Be willing to see that going back to school for some children is stressful, and takes time to adjust. Entering a new grade, new school, teachers, more homework, fitting in, being accepted or rejected by that special group it's so important to be a part of. Being bullied last year, report cards, or changing schools and learning how to fit in and make new friends, or the self-imposed stress of the over achiever, striving for an A because the A- they got last year wasn't good enough. These issues and more are crammed into a child's emotional backpack, following them to school each day, effecting how they view themselves and their attitude toward school.
Parents need to recognize that going back to school is no different than going back to work after a great vacation or starting a new job. It's stressful and takes time to get geared up. Some kids welcome going back to school or have great coping skills that help them deal with these issues, while others feel pressured, anxious, frightened and don't' know how to cope. And as a result, view returning to school negatively. Establishing an atmosphere where your child can share their feelings, emotions and frustrations in a non-judgmental, accepting manner, makes both going back to school, as well as operating successfully through the school year a little easier, because someone's willing to listen.
Practice readiness training early. For the new parent it's all about readiness training, or it should be. Walk into any classroom, pre K through 3rd grade and you can tell which children are acclimated to school and the learning process. In fact, experts tell us that effectively making that bridge from home to school establishes the tone for a student's educational success for the rest of their life, and that's all due to readiness training. How they respond to teachers, directions, rules, stay on task and socialize, relates to how ready they are for one of the first major transitions in their life, and this needs to begin long before a child enters school. Readiness training is about parents "talking up" school, assisting a child in continuing to develop their physical, social and emotional wellbeing in the classroom away from parents. Readiness training provides the child the ability to walk into a classroom feeling positive, ready to participate in the learning process. Success in readiness training is teaching your child how to be a student before they become one. For the parent it's about establishing boundaries, eliminating inappropriate behavior, teaching respect and courtesy for others, and establishing a healthy atmosphere for learning before the child enters the classroom, resulting in a child who looks forward to school. For the child, entering school it's the difference between success or insecurity, anxiety and school conflict with something they don't understand versus being ready to learn and compete successfully throughout their life.
Be prepared. Parents are not only responsible for sending their children to school equipped with backpacks, pencils and iPads, they're responsible for managing and monitoring their child's actions and behaviors. Don't expect teachers or administrators to "parent" your child. They can't, won't and don't want to! You're in charge of your child, not the teacher. Establish clear and reasonable expectations before your child enters the classroom regarding what you expect from an academic, behavioral, social and emotional position. Additionally, be proactive, establish relationships with your child's teachers, attend all back-to-school nights, go to parent/teacher meetings prepared, respond to teachers immediately and expect a similar response in return. Of utmost importance, establish a partnership where parent, child and teachers are held accountable for your child's success because you took charge.
Help with organization. Do kids need technology to be organized? Probably not. The simpler the method the easier it is for them to be organized and for you to manage their process. A simple solution is the red/blue folder system. Explain to your child that the red folder is for all school assignments that need to come home each day, worksheets, handouts, written assignments, etc. Homework time rolls around, ask for the red folder, it should be full of assignments. Once assignments are completed they are put in the blue folder, which along with the emptied red folder goes back to school filled with completed assignments. You're right, it's not quite that easy, but if managed by the parents, it works.
Do your homework too. The person in charge of homework isn't your child or their teacher, it's you. Homework becomes a problem when a parent doesn't manage it. Find out everything about homework from our child's teacher. Set expectations with your child in advance, establish an appropriate "homework regimented" and stick to the schedule. Review all homework prior to and after it's completed and don't be afraid to micro-manage the process, particularly if your child isn't a "homework self-starter." With children who don't follow through with homework independently, control the process by utilizing the kitchen table as a place where everyone does their homework. This is where you can provide close and immediate supervision and keep distractions to a minimum, which means no TV, iPads, cell phones or texting until homework is completed. Does every child need this degree of parental involvement? Look at your child's respond to homework. Their response to this responsibility tells you how active you need to be in the process. For those of you who are saying how does my child learn responsibility if I'm so involved in the process? Remember, responsibility like many other behaviors is learned. If your child was responsible regarding homework, they wouldn't need your direction and close management. If they're not, their behavior is telling you they need your supervision to make sure the process is followed through on. Remember, if your child is in school, so are you, each and every day, driving their success.
Get professional help if needed. There's no stigma attached to seeking professional help for a child with a behavioral, emotional or academic problem, other than the one the parent attaches to it. Sometimes behavioral and educational problems can be solved with a helpful ear, close direction and support. However, in many cases, there's a need to incorporate experts to help direct and support a child's success when their actions, behavior and emotions dictate support beyond what a parent or teacher can provide. This necessary step needs to be a part of a child's educational career when their performance is hampered by issues, concerns or circumstances that impact their performance and achievement beyond their control. Not responding to your child's needs, keeps them behind, underperforming, establishing a negative view of school during their educational career and their place in it.
Are there more? It's obvious we've just scratched the surface. For many of you these points may not have come as a surprise, but it's important to dust them off and readdress them because they work.
What's most important? Leadership! Parental leadership is about driving student performance and success. Without it, the points I presented are nothing more than words. Your child's success in school and your overall success as a parent, is based on reasonable parental expectations, providing direction, monitoring behavior and supporting demonstrated results. This is what parental leadership is all about. Without parental leadership your child's ability to achieve the success you expect them to demonstrate is diminished, if realized at all. Don't allow a world of multiple influences to impact your child more than your role as the single most important leader in their lives, their parent.