Parents want the best for their kids. I live that.
Teachers want the best for their students. I live that, too.
So how do we work together to make that happen? Here are a couple of suggestions so that parents can help their students at home without creating more homework or drama.
- Cook with your child, or better yet, let your child cook. Of course, you should do this on an age appropriate level, but cooking teaches so much. First off, reading and following directions in a sequential fashion – in which subject will your child not have to do that? Second, cooking teaches fractions. Try doubling a recipe or cutting it in half. Your child will have to think through all of the measurements. Third, chemistry is involved. What happens if you leave the baking soda out of a cookie recipe and why? If you don’t personally know, now is the time to look that up, and all of you learn something. Fourth, your student will learn to understand the process. So many students today want to go directly to the finished product. It is essential that they understand that writing, problem solving, and so many other skills they need are all process based. There are no shortcuts, and no going directly to the end. You cannot go from ingredients to cookies without some work involved. Same thing with schoolwork.
- Let you kids have their opinions, but be sure to ask why. Critical thinking skills are important, but so often students want to work on “because I said so” reasoning. It is so important that you let them express their own opinions, and more important that they are able to reason out why they believe that. If they love something, make them explain why. If they don’t like something, make them explain why. One of the things I assure my students is that they don’t have to fall in love with everything we read, but they have to be able to explain why they dislike a work without using the words “boring” or “lame.” They also have to support their persuasive arguments with real reasons, not because they think it sounds good. Do the same at home. Make them think it all the way through. Ask why.
- Don’t jump in the minute your child experiences some difficulty. Let him or her work through it, and it is okay to struggle with a concept or assignment. Let your student go in and ask the teacher for additional help. We want our students to come to us so we can answer those individual questions. Quite frankly, parents emailing the teacher asking for explanation defeats what we are all trying to do for two reasons. First, it takes responsibility away from your child and essentially, you are telling your child that in difficult times, you must step in and take over. Let them start developing those skills to be their own advocate in this environment. Second, things get lost in the triangulation. Your student needs to have his or her questions answered. If a teacher explains it to you, you child learns nothing. And what if you cannot explain it correctly to your child? If you feel the need to step in, step in and talk to your child about the best ways to seek help and counsel from the teacher. Help your child understand that teachers are there to make sure students understand, and we are not there to fail everyone, as rumor often has it.
- Don’t tell your child that you were not good at something. That sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy, and can come back to bite you in the rear end. You really don’t want your child who is clearly capable to come back at you with “well, you made a D in this class in high school, too.” No good can come from that. And, let’s face it, this is about them and not about you. They honestly do not care what you did in middle or high school because that was before iPhones, which means you lived in the dark ages.
- Reward effort, but understand that sometimes that does not equal an A. Sometimes a student can work really hard on something and still not get it. It happens. Or, they get so caught up in some aspect of a project that they spend hours on that one part and cannot get the rest of the project done. They are putting in the effort, which is great. Reward that. Don’t tell them that they are smart, or perfect, or anything like that; tell them that you are proud of them for putting in the work. That work ethic makes more difference than you realize.
- Most of all, be realistic about your student. Set achievable expectations. Keep in mind that these are children, not mini adults. Let your student make errors and learn from them. You were not perfect in school, either. And things have changed since you were in school. Be kind. Be compassionate. And love them where they are…right in this very moment. Your acceptance will give them the safety net they need to reach out and try, without fearing your wrath and disappointment should they fail.