Parenting, from a teacher’s view

I used to be a parent. Now, I’m a grandparent and a teacher as well. I always knew that consistency in child raising was essential, and difficult to maintain when a person is tired.  I’ve learned some things since I started teaching. Here are a few. I’m hoping they may help parents just starting down the road.

I can tell when a child is allowed to wear his parents down and get what he wants with whining because when he first comes to my class, he tries it with me. I explain politely that when I say no, that is the only answer he will receive. If he repeats his request there will be consequences. Then I say no. He whines. I give him a bookshelf to straighten up. He whines, I add cleaning the paper off the floor. He begins to get the idea, and heads for the bookshelf. Next time it only takes one consequence, and the time after that my no is respected – unless he’s a really slow learner. This procedure works at home.

I can tell when a little sweetie is not required to respect her parents because when I give her an instruction, she says something cute like, “Hold on.” I explain in my honey voice that she will not be telling me to hold on, ever again, unless she would like to enjoy the consequences, such as holding herself on the bench at recess for whatever amount of our class time she has wasted. Doesn’t take too many repeats of that scene, either. And it works at home, just switch recess to television or video game time lost.

I can tell whether tears get a child what they want at home because the water works flow before we are three days into the school year over something totally amazing, like not getting to sharpen a pencil in the middle of a lesson. Then I say my speech. “In kindergarten you can cry. Maybe even in first grade, but we are third graders, and crying doesn’t get us anything but a trip to the bathroom to get control of ourselves. Head out.” Also works at home.

I can tell when parents get in the way of natural consequences at home because they bring in lunches left on counters or homework left under the sofa. Do we realize that one of our jobs as parents is to prepare children to be self reliant, responsible grownups? If Britney has to pay the price of a lost recess because she didn’t bring her homework, she will figure out a way to get it to school. I know this because Britney can figure out how to get anything else she wants. Then when she’s a grownup, she won’t have to pay the price of losing her job because she “forgot” too often.

And finally, I can tell when parents have abdicated their responsibility as parents when children are allowed to arrive at school in skirts that they can’t bend over in without showing butt cheeks, shorts that show butts without having to bend over, pants that look like they’re painted on or hang so low I can see their underwear – and I don’t mean the waistband, and shirts that hide nothing or flaunt it. And I teach elementary school. I know that now and then a kid changes clothes when the parent is unaware. However, I see kids get out of cars in our parking lot looking as I’ve descrbed. The parent is driving the car. These kids don’t have their own money, so who bought these clothes, and what is the message? Say no at the store. You have the power, use it.

Raising kids is a difficult and thankless job in some respects. If a person is not up for it, they shouldn’t sign on.  Behind closed doors teachers say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and shake their heads sadly about some kids. It makes us sad when a parent has  negative influence on the growth of their child.

We say the same thing about kids who are taught well by their parents, we just smile when we say it. Parenting has lots of rewards. Some of them are when the child you’ve spent these years training succeeds at something, or makes progress where they’ve struggled.

One last thought. Make sure to communicate with your children’s teachers. Offer to help in our classes. There’s always work to be done,and your child will see that you think school is important. You’ll also get to know the teachers and have a better idea how you can help your child learn.

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