When we think about how to help children through school, the first things that come to mind are: checking their homework, having pencils, pens, and paper, and getting them to school. With No Child Left Behind (NCLB) test scores are important and everyone is concerned how well their child will do. However, the reality of it all is we are here to prepare our children to grow up and become productive responsible adults. Enabling our children will only teach them to become dependent on adults. Here are ten ways to support your child, regardless of their grade level:
1. Talk with your child everyday. It's important to talk with your child not at them. Everyone is always ready to tell their child what not to do. What do they like to do, what are they watching on television, what is going on in the news? Talk to your child not at them. Engage them in conversation regarding community and world events. Not all news is violent.
2. Ask your child what happened in school. Many parents ask, "What did you learn?" I can guarantee the response will be, "nothing." When asking what happened, your child's first response will give you insight into what is important in their mind. Do they tell you about a fight that occurred, a child who got hurt, a teacher's negative comment, or what they learned, what positive feedback they received from the teacher, and upcoming school events? This will also tell you how your child sees the world, is the cup half empty or half full. Regardless of their response, listen and ask further questions. Do not tell them what they should have done throughout their day.
3. Give them a specific time and place to do homework. School is preparation for work when they become an adult. Pick a time in the early evening when everyone in the family has to work, including the adults. While your child is working on homework, the adults may be paying bills, reading the newspaper, or taking care of household chores. During this time regardless of the activity everyone is engaged in, there should be no interruption from the telephone, television or anyone in the house. Whatever you do, do not do your child's homework, you are not fooling anyone. It only tells your child you do not believe in him/her.
4. Review their homework. Rather than check their homework, you want to review it with your child and ask him/her to explain their work and their thinking. Even if you see incorrect answers or misconceptions of concepts, do not correct their work. Making mistakes is a part of life, and what effort will he/she put into their work if they know you will "fix" it all. As much as you want everything they do to be perfect, parents need to know the difference between enabling and providing support.
5. Conflict Resolution. The book, Making Friends for Dummies, has yet to be written. It is a lifelong process of learning, and yet the most difficult and trying times are during ones school days. When your child has a conflict with another student, do not run to their rescue. Inform the teacher, in case the teacher is unaware. Many parents feel that running to the principal's office and requesting a classroom transfer is the solution. It only teaches students to run from their problems. Unless their safety is in jeopardy, transferring a student is not the best option. Many children have the belief that we have only one "best friend." Yet, they change best friends on a daily basis. Different personal activities may involve different friends. We create relationships and maintain as many as possible without playing favorites as to who is closer and who is not. We seemed to have created a society where only one person can be close to you.
6. Problem Solving. Teach your child strategies by role playing various scenarios. Ask him/her, what they would do if someone told them to steal money from the teacher's desk. And if their proposed solution did not work, what else could they do. The idea is to think through various solutions so they have options and are prepared. While times have changed, peer pressure has remained constant. If your child makes a bad choice, you do not want them to say they did not know what to do.
7. Attend all school programs. I have run into more people who can tell me every event their parent did not attend. You do not have to give your opinion of the event, just attend. The major events are Back to School Night, Open House and that ever important Winter Program. Check with your child's teacher at the beginning of the year to find out what events will be taking place. This is probably the one that will affect the relationship you have with your child the most. They will perceive they are not important and you do not care if you do not attend.
8. Support the teacher. Assume good will on the part of the teacher. They want the best for your child and they want the best for their class. With cell phones and email, there is no excuse to not have contact with the teacher, even if you never have a face to face meeting. Let the teacher know you not only want to know the "bad" things your child does, but when your child does something outstanding. Ask the teacher what their expectations are and how you can support them to help your child meet the teacher's goals for the year.
9. Put them to bed early. How did you function at work the last time you could not sleep peacefully at night? Were you grumpy and unfocused? Imagine your child having to go to school and take a test or present an oral report. Everyone works better when they stick to a schedule and a routine. Have a time when lights need to be turned off, and be consistent.
10. Get them to school on time. Finally, get your child to school on time. How many times does an employer allow someone to be late before losing their job or having their pay docked? I can guarantee a student who gets to school on time now will be one who gets to work on time as an adult. Think back to the last time you were late on the job. Did it seem like you spent the rest of the day trying to catch up? You usually end up anxious the remainder of the day and can never quite relax.
The ten items listed above are to help parents see student accountability just as important as student test scores. It requires students to make good choices and be responsible for those choices. In return, they will grow up to be productive and responsible adults.