Until your child is 18, school will most likely be one of the biggest elements in his or her life. Children spend approximately 200 days at school per year. That’s more than half of their short lives so far! We, as parents, often have so much on our minds and so little time, that it is easy to let our children just “get on with it”, especially once they get older. However, your attitude and interest in your child’s education, or lack thereof, can have a huge impact on their feelings towards school.
Children whose parents show little or no interest in their education tend to have a negative view of school, and their marks show it. They also tend to be anxious and have low self-esteem. In order to foster a sense of enthusiasm for school, here are some points to keep in mind:
Find the time
The 24 hours in a day doesn’t always seem enough to cover everything we need to do – most parents have demanding, full-time jobs, which means leaving for work early in the morning and getting home late in the afternoon or even early evening. Add that to the demands of taking care of a family and a home, and carving out time to sit and talk to your children seems nearly impossible, right? However, it is essential. It is incredibly important to take a few minutes to ask your child about their day at school, and really listen to their answers.
Ask questions like:
- “What did you learn at school today?”
- “What was the best (or worst) thing about your day?”
- If they wrote a test or exam, “Which questions do you feel great about? Which question, or questions, did you struggle with the most?”
Be actively involved in homework. Trust me, they do have homework, even if they tell you they don’t. Let your child know that you are prepared to help them in any way you are able. You might even learn something new yourself!
Please remember, you might be replaceable at work, but it is impossible to replace you as a parent.
Mind your words
“What is wrong with this teacher?” “Why in the world do you need to learn this rubbish?” Do either of these statements sound familiar? If you say things like this around your child, chances are they will develop a negative attitude towards their teachers and/or schoolwork too.
Let me let you in on a little secret – teachers also often shake their heads at the content they have to teach. I know I did! However, your child may one day find himself in a position where the content they hated is their saving grace. The future is unknown! Encourage your child to learn everything they can!
As for badmouthing your child’s teachers – please, please don’t. I know it seems impossible at times, and some teachers make it more difficult than others, but your child’s relationship with, and attitude towards, their teacher can make or break how they perform in that specific subject. Being disrespectful to their teacher in class could also be a consequence of hearing negative things from you, their parents. This could create a very unpleasant environment for your child, the teacher and the rest of your child’s class.
However, if there is a serious problem with a teacher, rather contact your child’s school and discuss it with the principal. I promise you, most teachers have your child’s best interest at heart, and would love to see them do well and succeed!
The dark side of school
There have been so many shocking stories in the news lately. Bullying, online tormenting, sexual harassment and outright cruelty seem to be more common in our schools than we like to believe. Unfortunately, these are subjects that many children do not talk about until the situation is out of control, or worse.
By being involved in your child’s schooling, and their life, there is a better chance of them coming to you with problems like these. It is also extremely important to talk about these difficult subjects with your children. Make them aware! Tell them what to watch out for, and tell them that they need to talk to you, or someone they trust, should anything untoward be happening at school. It might just save your child’s life, or the life of another child.
You can be too involved!
While younger children are delighted to see their parents at school and at every single function, older children may be less impressed. Take your cues from your child. If they seem uncomfortable with your involvement, take a step back. It is important to remember that, even though they are our children, they are their own person. They need to experience and discover some things without parents present.
While your child may need your help with their school work once in a while, be cautious of just giving them the answer. This creates the expectation that someone will eventually do the work for them, with very little or no effort on their part. This may lead to problems later in life.
This next part may seem a little harsh, so please forgive me. Everyone who works at your child’s school, including teachers, secretaries and the principal, are constantly under enormous pressure. Their days are incredibly busy and filled with admin. Parents who phone on a daily basis with requests and demands do not do their child any favours! I once had a parent who phoned before the end of year exams and demanded that summaries of the year’s work be made for her child. Another parent wrote a long letter in their son’s homework diary insisting that I had made several mistakes in a test – which I had not. This poor child walked to my desk with the diary in his hand and red cheeks, apologising profusely about his dad, who insisted that I read what he had written and that he received a reply.
Twelve years of school seems like a mountain before you when your child starts Grade 1, but before you know it, you will be sending your son or daughter off to their first day of Grade 12. Be present in your child’s school career! When your child looks back on their memories of school, hopefully you will be there, behind them all the way.