I taught for four years before I became a parent. I had many moments of ‘I’ll never do that when I become a parent!’ and ‘My children will never turn out like that’. So as I enter my fifth year of parenting I thought I’d reflect on things I now do as a parent because of my experiences as a teacher. It might give me a reality check about my success in becoming the parent I imagined myself to be!
7 things I do as a parent because I am also a teacher:
1. I won’t rush to fix my children's mistakes
Someone’s forgotten to pack their lunch? They won’t starve to death if they have to wait until they get home to eat, but they will remember to pack their lunch the next day.
Someone else has forgotten to pack their homework? Running up to school with the project may make you ‘Mum of the Minute’ (the thanks may not last much longer than that!) but it won’t make them check their planner the next night to check if homework is due.
Dealing with the consequences of their actions is an important part of learning. By fixing their mistakes I’ll be allowing them to avoid the consequences of their actions and reduce the need for them to think and develop their independence. I am definitely there as a safety net for the big things but they need to take responsibility for the everyday stuff.
2. I will have high expectations
Educational research consistently shows that high expectations play an important role in developing successful learners. This doesn’t mean I will expect my children to be THE best or always come first, but it does mean I’ll expect them to be the best they can be. If they are capable of scoring above 75% on Maths tests and yet on their latest test they scored 60% I will have a conversation about what happened. It may be that the topic was harder and they just didn’t ‘get it’ and that is fine. But if it was because they didn’t study enough, complete their homework or were sitting next to the wrong person in class and got distracted then we can have a conversation about that.
Goal setting is an important part of setting high expectations. I will talk to the boys about what marks they expect to get in a certain subject in high school or what level of readers they think they will master by the end of term in primary school. I will help them make challenging, yet achievable goals.
In educational terms we talk about this as being Vygotsky's zone of proximal development http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_of_proximal_development but I like my colleagues high jump analogy better. If you set the high jump bar too low then there is no motivation for you to engage and participate in the event. If you set the bar too high, you will pull out of the jump before you even attempt it. But if you set the bar at a challenging level, although you may initially knock the bar off, with persistence, coaching, effort and practice you can succeed and feel proud of your accomplishment.
3. I will be child’s parent first and friend second.
As their parent, I think my primary job is to love them, keep them safe and healthy, set boundaries and expectations and try to help them develop their own moral compass. My children will hopefully make many friends to have fun with, discover and explore common interests with and test boundaries together.
Our school psychologist has often discussed what she terms the ‘missing parent syndrome.’ Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond many parents control, some parents feel like they are neglecting their child in terms of the time they are able to spend with them. Some parents attempt to make up for it by being their child’s friend first, and parent second. They decide that is more important for them to have their children like them rather than encounter potential conflict by setting and maintaining boundaries and expectations. Of course I want my children to like me, but it won’t be the measure by which I make parenting decisions.
4. I will remember that there are two sides to every story.
I will listen to my children and be their number one advocate when it is required, but I will always remember that there are two sides to every story. I have had too many conversations with parents that are unable to see the whole picture as they have blind faith in their child.
We all want to believe our child, but we need to maintain perspective and be open to seeing all sides to every story.
5. I will be careful when I use the term ‘bullying’.
Bullying is a serious issue. It can have serious physical and psychological ramifications and every school should have a strict ‘no tolerance’ policy. However if one child calls my child a mean name, although this will be upsetting, it is not bullying. If one child excludes my child from playing for one day, this is mean and hurtful, but it is not bullying. As the NSW department of education explains ‘Conflict or fights between equals and single incidents are not defined as bullying. Bullying behaviour is not: children not getting along well, a situation of mutual conflict or single episodes of nastiness or random acts of aggression or intimidation.’
If my child comes home and raises these issues I will be careful to label the behaviour as ‘mean’ and ‘not what friends do’ and I will talk to them about how they might handle the situation. What I won’t do is label the behaviour as ‘bullying’.
Bullying is a repeated behaviour and involves a misuse of power. I never want bullying to be ignored so I am mindful of teacher’s experiencing ‘bullying fatigue’. I want myself and other teachers to respond quickly and decisively to bullying and if every child calls every incident ‘bullying’ it can be overwhelming and dilute the seriousness with which bullying is perceived and dealt with.
6. I won’t do for them what they can do for themselves.
Yes, this is slower. Yes, you need more patience. And yes, I don’t always follow through, especially if it is my fault that we are under time pressure. You know how it goes “I’ll just hang this load of washing out before we go to kinder, quick get your shoes on, argg, just let me do it!” But investing the time to help them become more independent is well worth the effort.
Too many students struggle in Year 7, not because they are not smart enough, but because their organisational skills are so poor. They have so much trouble organising their books and locker and homework schedule that learning becomes a secondary issue. By the time they develop the organisational skills required in high school, they can be falling behind academically.
It takes time, but children respond well to routine and repetition and they become proud of their achievements as they increase their independence and self-help skills. Essentially Jess has a good post on how to get kids to make their own lunch and Welcome to Mommyhood has some great advice on using the Montessori approach to developing practical life skills for toddlers.
However the ‘don’t do for them what they can do for themselves’ extends beyond just chores and developing life skills. If one of my boys was telling me about issues in their class or the playground my first question will be “Did you speak to your teacher about it?” If they haven’t done that yet, then I won’t be the first one to raise the issue. It is unfortunately becoming common for children to text/call their parent about an issue while still at school rather than directly approaching a teacher first. The teacher then receives a phone call or email from a parent about an issue they didn’t even knew existed and the problem has already become bigger than it may have needed to. Any issue is best handled immediately by the teacher and the children involved so the issue can be resolved and the children can develop skills such as negotiation, tolerance, acceptance and conflict resolution.
7. I’ll make sure my children don’t feel overly entitled.
As teachers we have more recently discussed how students with an over-developed sense of entitlement display less respect and appreciation for their education. It reduces their intrinsic motivation to study and the value they place on their education. And quite frankly it often makes them come across as rude and spoiled. I’ll try in part to prevent this from happening by travelling with our children, supporting part-time work and ensuring they understand the value of the dollar. I realise that it sounds counter intuitive to say I’ll try to reduce their sense of entitlement by taking them travelling. However I’ve found students with a more worldly view and a better understanding of the advantages we have in suburban Australia also demonstrate a greater appreciation for education and the opportunities it can provide. I hope my boy’s never feel like society ‘owes’ them something and they instead look to see what they can contribute to the greater good.
So if these are my parental goals, how would my report card read?
‘Danielle tries hard however sometimes she struggles to follow through and be consistent with some of the small things – she repeats herself far too often, struggles to maintain control at meal times and her son wears superhero t-shirts despite her firm assurances that this was never to happen.
As for her more significant goals, it is too early to tell how she is travelling. She appears to have an understanding of her goals and is making progress toward achieving them; however the age of her boys means she is yet to be fully challenged in these areas. I look forward to seeing how she responds to these challenges in the future.’
I guess only time will tell!
Tell me, do you have any other rules or goals you use to guide your parenting?
I'm sending this to Jess
I'm sending this to Jess