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Parenting is the toughest job on the planet. I have read many articles, magazines, blogs and stories about parenting. It has been compared to dressing a squid, entertaining a wolverine, or feeding an army. I am lucky to be able to use my professional knowledge to help me lead my parenting endeavors. I am far from perfect; I just have an arsenal of tools to use so I can last longer than the kids, most days. These are the things I wish my classroom parents knew from my 16 years of experiences of working with children.
1. Children must read. Reading is good for kids and this fact has become common knowledge. It is an everyday expectation in our society. We start at birth and read to our babies. But this important bonding time needs to continue through elementary school. What you read is not as important as spending the reading time together. You can read magazines or newspaper articles. You can read blogs. You can read comics. You can read picture books or chapter books.
As students develop their own reading ability you can partner read. Take turns reading pages or paragraphs or chapters. As your child becomes an independent reader select favorite authors or chapter series to continue reading aloud together. Or, quietly sit together, each with your own book in whatever format you like, and read silently together. Hearing language is important as students develop their own reading skills and comprehension. The best way to become better at a skill is to do it often.
2. Understand that mistakes matter. When we make mistakes we are learning. This is part of the process. As painful as it is, let your children make mistakes. Use these moments to talk about other possibilities or decisions that could have been made instead. Talk about what is learned from the mistake. Allow them a safe environment to be wrong, to fall, to fail and then support them as they learn from that mistake and get back up and tackle the problem again. Talk about what you have learned from your own mistakes. Reassure them you love them no matter what and reward the effort. Show them how amazing things can come from a mistake that was made.
3. Entertain questions.Kids love to ask questions about EVERYTHING, as a parent do you ask your children questions? Let them take responsibility for some things in their life and ask them to problem solve. Ask them what they think. Ask how they would solve a problem. Ask what they think should happen. Ask them what a consequence should be. You are the parent and get final say, but let them be part of the process. This shows students how we process things and make decisions.
4.Teach your children independence. Toddlers go through a stage where everything is, “No, me do it!” This is an important part of understanding the person they are becoming. With elementary students it is important to continue to support and foster that independence. Let them make decisions on their own. Talk with them about goals and help them set reasonable goals for themselves. Ask them to plan a time and place they will do homework. Hold them accountable for following through. Students need to be able to complete tasks independently and will be successful with help.
5. Remember safety counts. We communicate through email, IM and texting so much these days. We have all of our contact information in our iPhones and devices. However, children need to know important numbers and their address for safety. This has to be taught. Be sure your child can state their full address. Help them practice making phone calls to grandparents and parents so they are able to complete a call with both a land line and a cell phone. If an emergency were to arise then they need to be prepared to respond.
We don’t like to think of bad things happening, but think of what you want your child to do in emergencies. Where do they go if there is a fire? How do they get out of the house? Where do you meet? What is your home address? What is your phone number? What if someone breaks in? Where do they hide? Who do they call? Just like clicking a seat belt when you get in the car, responses to these questions should all be automatic. Practice!
6.Parent your children. Friendships are important but those are relationships among peers. You are your child’s adviser, leader, counselor, nurse, teacher and mentor. Tell your child NO when they need to hear no. Set limits for them to follow and rules that are expected. Be clear in what you expect to happen and what the consequences are. Follow through with these consequences. Children want boundaries and will always love their parents. They are only in our homes for a very short time, once they move out and come back to visit let the friendship develop. When they are living under your roof be their parent and love them.
7. Let your children play.Get down on the floor, get dirty, get messy, use their crayons, build with the Legos and turn your recycle into monsters and aliens and new inventions. Children learn through play. This IS their work. By playing with your child you set an example for them so they can see what they are doing is important. You show them how much you care. You also model for them creativity, risk taking, and having fun. Play is an important part of development from birth and continues through elementary school.
Now stop reading this right now and go play with your child! It is the most important thing you will do today!