Parents can be your worst enemy or your best friend. Over the course of the last decade, I have been able to work with some of the most difficult parents, as well as some of the best parents. As a principal, I would like to offer a few tips for parents that I believe every educator would want them to know.
I believe that the majority of parents do a solid job. However, there are those few rotten eggs that cause teachers and administrators to rethink their career choices, hide when they see them coming, and to curse them behind closed doors. These are the parents educators wish they could find in an empty alleyway and knock some sense into. These parents make doing our job so much more difficult than what it has to be.
Tip #1 – Be Supportive
Any teacher will tell you that if a child’s parent is supportive, that they will gladly work through any issues that might arise over the course of the school year. Teachers are human and there is a chance they will make a mistake. However, despite perception most teachers are dedicated professionals who do a terrific job day in and day out. It is unrealistic to think that there aren’t bad teachers out there, but most are very good at what they do. If your child does have a bad teacher, please don’t judge the next teacher based on the previous, and voice your concerns about that teacher to the principal. If your child has an excellent teacher, then make sure that teacher knows how you feel about them and let the principal know that as well. Voice your support not only of the teacher, but of the school as a whole.
Tip #2 – Be Involved and Stay Involved
One of the most frustrating trends in schools is how the level of parental involvement decreases as a child’s age increases. It is a very discouraging fact, because children of all ages would benefit if their parents would stay involved. While it is certain that the first few years of school are arguably the most important, the other years are important as well.
Children are smart and intuitive. When they see their parents taking a step back in their involvement, it sends the wrong message. Most children will start to slack off as well. It is a sad reality that many middle school and high school parent/teacher conferences have a very small turnout. The ones who do show up are the ones that teachers often say don’t need too, but the correlation to their child’s success and their continued involvement in their child’s education is no mistake.
Every parent should know what is going on in their child’s daily school life. A parent should do the following things every day:
- Ask your child how their school day went. Engage in conversation about what they learned, who their friends are, what they had for lunch, etc.
- Make sure child has time set aside to complete homework. Be there to answer any questions or assist when needed.
- Read all notes/memos sent home from the school and/or teacher. Notes are the primary form of communications between a teacher and parents. Look for them and read them to stay up-to-date on events.
- Contact your child’s teacher immediately if you have any concerns.
- Value your child’s education and express the importance of it every single day. This is arguably the single most important thing a parent can do when it comes to their child’s education. Those that value education often thrives and those that don’t often fail.
Tip #3 – Don’t Bad-Mouth the Teacher in Front of Your Child
Nothing undermines the authority of a teacher any faster than when a parent continuously bashes them or talks bad about them in front of their child. There are times when you are going to be upset with a teacher, but your child should never know exactly how you feel. It will interfere with their education. If you vocally and adamantly disrespect the teacher, then your child will likely mirror you. Keep your personal feelings about the teacher between yourself, the school administration, and the teacher.
Tip #4 – Follow Through
As an administrator, I cannot tell you how many times I have dealt with a student discipline issue where the parent will come in very supportive and apologetic about their child’s behavior. They often tell you that they are going to ground their child and discipline them at home on top of the school’s punishment. However, when you inquire with the student the next day, they tell you that nothing was done.
Children need structure and discipline. If your child makes a mistake, then there should be consequences from both the school and home. This will show the child that both the parent and school are on the same page and that they aren’t going to be allowed to get away with that behavior. However, if you don’t have any intent on following through on your end, then don’t promise to take care of it at home as well. When you practice this behavior, it sends an underlying message that the child can make a mistake, but in the end there isn’t going to be a punishment. Follow through with your threats.
Tip #5 – Don’t Take Your Child’s Word for the Truth
If your child came home from school and told you that their teacher threw a box of Kleenexes at them, how would you handle it?
- Would you instantly assume that they are telling the truth?
- Would you call or meet the principal and demand that the teacher be removed?
- Would you aggressively approach the teacher and make accusations?
- Would you call and request a meeting with the teacher to ask them calmly if they could explain what happened?
If you are a parent who chooses anything other than 4, then your choice is the worst kind of slap in the face to an educator. Parents who take their child’s word over an adult before consulting with the adult challenge their authority. While it is entirely possible that the child is telling the truth, the teacher should be given the right to explain themselves without being viciously attacked first.
Too many times, children leave out crucial facts, when explaining situations like this to their parent. Children are often devious by nature and if there is a chance they can get their teacher in trouble, then they will go for it. Parents and teachers who stay on the same page and work together alleviate this opportunity for assumptions and misconceptions, because the child knows they won’t get away with it.
Tip #6 – Don’t Make Excuses for Your Child
Help us hold your child accountable. If your child makes a mistake, don’t bail them out by constantly making excuses for them. From time to time, there are legitimate excuses, but if you are constantly making excuses for your child, then you are not doing them any favors. You won’t be able to make excuses for them their whole life, so don’t let them get into that habit.
If they didn’t do their homework, don’t call the teacher and say it was your fault because you took them to a ball game. If they get in trouble for hitting another student, don’t make the excuse that they learned that behavior from an older sibling. Stand firm with the school and teach them a life lesson that could prevent them from making bigger mistakes later on.