Why do we get butterflies in our stomachs on the first day back to school? There is a sense of vulnerability that overcomes many of us. During the two minutes at drop off, we begin to assess if we did what we needed to do to make our child fully prepared for this event. Should I have read more books to them? Should I have taken my child to the Museum of Modern Art instead of Chucky Cheese? My child is not perfect and they are going to realize this and I?m not there to defend him.
This week, we went straight to the principals office to ask those questions and to my relief, I?m not alone and yes, I did enough. I haven?t ruined my little ones’ chances of surviving Kindergarten. So, what’s our role? We are their parent, advocate, teachers and life coach. The difficult part of sending our little ones off on their own for 6-7 hours a day is that we are not sure what exactly is going on. Is my little one not following directions? Is my child eating his lunch? Is he being picked on? It?s our turn to sit on the sideline and be their cheerleaders. We need to allow the other coaches to help our children enhance his or her skills and learn. Allow our kids to play in the game and make it to the end zone on their own. There will be tackles, sacks and whistles blown for penalties. There will be goals and misses. Just know, no one loves your child more than you, but a teacher wants your child to learn and succeed just as much as you do.
Don’t Start the Year on a Negative Opinion
No matter what you have heard about the teacher, put aside any negative notions and start fresh. Your child?s teacher doesn?t have any preconceived notions about your child and you should return the courtesy. Class placements are carefully considered by your school. If there is something that you are upset about or don?t understand, such as the class your child was placed in, definitely discuss the issue with the teacher, but be positive and polite. Again, everyone has your child?s best interest in mind.
Parents want what?s best for their children, however, sometimes we assume we know what is best for our children. When it comes to our roles in our children’s academic career, we need to take a step back and trust the curriculum and protocols of the school. If you are unhappy with a decision or process, request a meeting with the teacher. This may be your first school year, and most teachers at the school have been there many years and have lots of experience. Teachers are highly educated professionals and have your child?s best interest at hand.
Give Teachers a Heads Up
Communication is critical, especially if you want to avoid crossing the wires. The more you tell a teacher about your child, the easier it is for them to chart a course and help them progress. Tell them about any personal events such as a new baby, new home or any discord. Teachers appreciate knowing that you are interested in discussing your child’s progress. Research shows that parent involvement helps children do better in school.
Don’t Set the Bar Too High
As parents, we need to have realistic expectations of both our children and their teachers. Too often, parents have the expectation that their child will read by the end of the Kindergarten year at a 6th grade level. Each child has their own time line. Some kids may pick up this skill quickly and may begin reading before June and some may not. If you hold firm in believing that your child needs to read by four, expect a path of disappointments throughout their academic years. When you set too high of an expectation, it will never be good enough and you will let both yourself and your child down.
Keeping Kids on a Constant Emotional High is Unrealistic
There is a level of thought out there that we must constantly tell our kids how great they are and that we always have to make them feel like they have succeeded. Don?t get me wrong, it is very important for parents to foster healthy self-esteem in a child. They will do better in school and in life when they are more confident. On the flip side, when you lack constructive feedback and constantly reward and praise your child and not let them experience disappointment, your may overstep the line and end up with a kid who has a sense of entitlement that outweighs their accomplishments.
It’s Not the Destination, It’s the Journey
Obviously we all want our little ones to be successful. We want them to go to the best college and we want them to do whatever it is they want to do in the world and be successful. Our children should have the opportunity to walk the path of knowledge at their own pace and on their own route. As a parent, we are there to support and give guidance. We should embrace their journey and not take all the steps for them. Let them try to figure out their next steps. Remember, our kids haven?t figured out their destination and while we can guide, we should not figure it out for them.
Spark Their Desire
Our children are born with the ability to learn. Learning is innate. Look at any “animal”, there’s no library for them. I did not teach my daughter how to drag the chair across the kitchen and how to climb up and get herself a cookie from the cabinet. She figured that out on her own, she watched and she learned. There were no lessons involved, only desire to achieve a goal, and so if we as parents can spark the desire, we will be amazed at how much our kids will learn.