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Written by Lindsey Daugherty
Don’t worry…he’s not in trouble…but do me a favor, keep that bottle of wine handy, get out an extra glass and I’ll be over as soon as I’m done writing this.
I am not officially a mother…yet, but I have been a “school mom” to over 400 kids for the last eight years. Some days I think being a teacher is the best form of birth control. Just kidding. Not really. I have taught in a variety of settings and a variety of ages: inner city public schools, international public schools, private schools, middle schoolers, elementary students, even those adorable kindergartners. I’ve seen the worst of the worst and the best of the best. Every single student I taught, however, did excel when one thing was present: structure.
I’m going to share with you a few tips from the point of view of your child’s teacher in hopes that both your life and my life stay sane.
1. Routines. Routines. Routines. According to education.com, children (and adults) feel the most secure when their lives are predictable. When adults provide environments that feel safe, children learn that they can trust others to take care of them and meet their needs, so they become free to relax and explore their world. When a child has routines at school and at home, he/she knows what to expect, knows what you expect, and this will eventually lead to self-sufficiency. These types of home routines can include having a specific time and place to do homework, where to put your plates after eating dinner, and how to get ready for bed (pajamas, brushing teeth, using the bathroom, story time, etc.) just to name a few. We all know life happens and sometimes a routine may be thrown off. Try your hardest to explain to your child, in advance, that something different may be happening so they can prepare themselves. If that is not possible, commend them during and after on how flexible they’re being. This will also translate later in life when problems arise in work settings that they may have no control over. By having routines and giving them that gradual release to become more independent, you are setting them up for success while you just sit back with your glass of wine and watch the magic happen.
2. Follow through with consequences. This may be a no brainer but you’d be surprised by how many parents let their child get away with murder….okay maybe not murder, but getting away with putting gum in a classmate’s hair, cheating on a test, or even cursing at a teacher. If you’re getting a phone call home from your teacher, trust me…they’ve about had it with your child. We don’t enjoy making “the call” home so let’s work together so that doesn’t have to happen. K, thanks.
Set your expectations clear and high. Your child is capable of doing more than you may know, so when you explain to them what you expect, how you expect it, and what the consequences will be for not fulfilling your expectations, you’re giving them that ownership to either meet those expectations or choose not to. At the beginning of each school year, teachers go over classroom rules and expectations. There is usually a hierarchy of consequences that go along with those rules. If the teacher does not follow those hierarchies (and like I said earlier, your child is capable of doing more than you may know) then said child will take advantage of that and have a field day with that teacher. This scenario translates to home too. Do us teachers a favor and show them what happens when they CHOOSE to do the wrong thing, especially if that wrong thing happens at school…otherwise both the teacher and the parent lose credibility. Insanity kicks in and then we’ll both be drinking wine for the wrong reasons.
3. Positive Reinforcement. My boss should be reading this tip because this actually applies to adults as well…am I right? Am I right? Humans crave recognition for hard work. People work harder when they feel appreciated, which in turn leads to higher self-esteem and higher work performance. The same concept applies for children at both home and school. When a child CHOOSES to do the incorrect thing, the adult must follow through with the consequence. Likewise, if the child CHOOSES to do the correct thing, the adult must follow through with the consequence. This does not have to be tangible (and rarely should it be.) These types of consequences, or positive reinforcements, can be as simple as saying, “You made your bed so neatly this morning!” “I liked the way you held that door open for those people!” or a good old-fashioned “Thank you.” If you’re feeling real fancy, take them to the park, allow them to stay up for an extra five minutes, let them choose what to listen to in the car; but whatever it is-make them feel appreciated for doing the right thing! These heartfelt words and acts of kindness will go a long way with a child (and an adult)…so I’ll remind my boss if she’s reading this…I prefer red over white. ;-)
Hopefully these quick tips help you so that your life is less chaotic in the long run…is that even possible before they turn 18?! Regardless, you’re doing an amazing job. We teach your kid for a fraction of the time you teach them, so from all of us teachers around the world, THANK YOU. Let’s work together to take on these (adorable) little monsters!