Back to school brings out a lot of “how to make the school year a good one” lists, and this is mine. We have three kids who went through school, and their experiences ran the gamut. As a parent, I’ve lived through many highs and a few lows, and as a former teacher, I can say the same thing.
Maybe because I’ve experienced school as a student, parent, and teacher, my thoughts are a bit different than the others I’ve seen. I hope this helps your family.
- You might be surprised about the thing that will most influence your child’s experience; it’s your attitude. Your attitude about E.VER.Y.THING.
- Big picture, show respect for education. If you don’t respect it, your kids won’t either.
- Hands down, you have to show respect for your child’s teachers. I’m not saying you have to like them or agree with them about everything. What I am saying is if you don’t show respect, your child will know and will take that attitude into the classroom.
Respect means you support the teacher as much as possible even when you disagree with her. Teach your children how to respectfully disagree and to agree to disagree. One example- Our son got detention in middle school a couple of times for breaking a rule we thought was ridiculous, but we told him he chose to break the rule, so he chose detention.
It also means if you’re going to have conversations about the teacher, have them where your child doesn’t hear them, especially if you’re going to be negative about the teacher personally. I know from experience the child will come into the classroom with no respect for the teacher and will behave in ways that show it. That’s not good for anybody.
- Show respect for the class/subject. When we started having art classes at our school, most of the parents were fine with it, but there were some who obviously thought art wasn’t as important as the
ther classes. It showed in lack of effort during class, not completing assignments, doing less than their best,… I finally sent a letter home to all the parents, K-5, saying that I understood if they didn’t think art was important; that was their opinion. But children need to be responsible for finishing homework, getting homework back to class, putting forth effort, and the like regardless of what the subject was. These are life lessons and life skills. That helped a lot. Parents realized respecting the class had value even if they thought the subject matter was unimportant. Once the parents showed respect for the class, the kids’ behavior changed.
- Respecting classmates is a huge deal. Nobody 100%-likes everybody. Not going to happen. Some people are just flat out mean, some are smarty pants, know it alls, nerds, sporty types, not interested in sports, different in some indefinable way, ad infinitum… Kids need to learn how to get along with others even if they don’t want to be BFFs with them, just being respectful (kind, friendly, pleasant, helpful, and not rejecting them) goes a long way. It makes life easier for those kids as well as your own. Just like at work.
- Respecting the rules is important. This example was a big deal in our middle school. If the dress code says shirts must be tucked in, you might think it’s not an important issue. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Getting to choose which rules we follow and which we don’t isn’t an option in a school setting. Well, it’s not a good one or a smart one. If a child knows his parent won’t back up the school over a rule, it gives the child a sense of I-don’t-have-to-do-what-you-say. Rules are a great place to show how to agree to disagree and reinforce the idea of accepting what we don’t like. Just like parents do at work.z
- Let your child be responsible for their choices. It’s ok if they have consequences for their decisions; in fact, this is the best time for kids to learn choices have consequences. At this age, the consequences are not harsh and have no long-lasting harmful effects. Missing recess or getting a bad grade on an assignment or even a test is not going to scar a child, but it could have an effect the next time a choice is made. Let your child fail forward while it’s an easy fail. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
- Last but not least, let your child know you love him/her
- no matter what happens at school. A child’s heart is infinitely more important than anything that happens or is taught at school.