Parenting tips for the new school year
The school year has begun. The opening of school not only impacts children but parents as well. In fact, parents must consider themselves as primary educators for their children. They create within their children the interest to learn and grow intellectually, emotional, and spiritually.
Teachers in school can only build on the foundation parents set in the hearts and minds of their children. Hence, here is one tip that can work miracles for children and parents: show an interest in what your children are doing or learning in school. Yes, it is simple as that. Note I said earlier that parents set the foundation for learning. Do not underestimate this fundamental principle of parenting.
How then do parents show an interest in what their children and doing and learning in school? Here are a few points:
1. Set aside at least thirty minutes to one hour each school day to interact with your child (from primary school to high school).
2. Be the first to ask the questions. Here are a few simple questions to start with: What did you like the most in school today? Can you share with me something you learned in school today? Can you show me what you did in school today?
3. Never ask the question, ‘Do you have homework today?’ Always assume there is homework, even if is not assigned by the teacher. There should be an understanding that “homework” everyday will be a review of what was done in school that day.
4. Give praise or positive reinforcement regularly. Praise goes a long way. Criticism will not help a child to learn. Encourage the child even for small changes. For example: When you child’s grade changes from D- to a C, praise the child.
Parents, get involved in your child’s learning process. Don’t be afraid because you cannot read well, or you do not understand the subject. Just show interest. Tell them to teach you what they are learning. This brings me to a key concept in parenting and education. Parents, make sure you understand that if your focus is on harsh rules and rugged sternness, you will not help your child to learn. Focus first on establishing a trusting, caring and loving relationship with your children. For decades I’ve been sharing this point: “Rules without relationship breed chaos.”
“What then should come first: Rules or relationships? Perhaps we should ask that question to a mother and father of a new born baby. It is no doubt that during the first few hours and weeks of their child’s life it’s all about loving, giving, sharing, and nurturing. Rules are far from their mind. Unfortunately, in many homes, when these tender bundles of joy turn into the troublesome two and three with their nasty, noisome behavior, the loving diminishes and rulemaking increases. As rules proliferate, love is squeezed out of the picture. Many parents are not aware of this because their focus is on control and not nurture.
The child is not aware of the missing element either until he or she reaches an age of discernment, then it is often too late. Building relationships is more important than creating rules. Yes, we do need rules, but they are ineffective without understanding. As stated earlier in this article, having rules without relationship is big trouble. Could it be this is why we have so much violence in our country today? Could this be why we have so much pain and misery in our classrooms? We are busy passing laws, making amendments, and formulating administrative strategies. We must be reminded that strategies, laws and amendments without connectedness brings pain instead of success. Is it too late to make a difference in our homes, classrooms, or communities?
Parents, it is imperative to understand that knowing the difference between punishment and discipline will help you be better parents. Punishment is the consequences given to a child because of wrongdoing. If the parent is only responding to wrong behavior or perceived wrong behavior, then that parent will be a failure and the child may not be encouraged to learn.
Discipline is helping children develop self-government. Developing personal responsibility means acquiring what psychologists call an internal locus of control. This means that the source of control is internal — the individual acts out of a sense of personal value and commitment. External locus of control mean that the individual depends on external rewards and punishments to behave as the authority or parent wishes. When the external locus of control is not present–that is the external force–then the person acts impulsively. Children who are taught or gradually acquire an internal locus of control, or reasoning skills, will avoid misbehavior because they believe it is wrong. They will try to act consistently with a set of standards they have learned from their parents and have made their own.”
Parents, you have the power to make or break your children. For heaven’s sake, understand your power and use is positively to create critical-thinking, self-governed, disciplined children.
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board-certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to [email protected] or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or telephone 242-327-1980.