One of the things that caught me off guard when I officially became a teacher was that, of the many hats I wear, I would have to sometimes be a parenting coach. This notion still makes me uncomfortable for two main reasons:
- I do not have my own kids.
- I do not like to tell other people how to live their lives, let alone how to raise one.
Unfortunately, I find myself kicking myself in the behind for not being able to say things to parents that they really need to hear more often than not. But, on my morning run, reflecting on how I could improve as a teacher, my brick wall is a handful of my students’ lack of motivation. I’ve tried everything I can from positive rewards, community circles, parent contact, punitive punishments like detention, letting them just showcase one item to turn in that week, more parent contact, but I’m running in circles. A few of the students have come a LONG way, but not far enough to my standards by this time in the year. But I’m stuck with 3 thorns in my side. My solution, just isn’t working and I attribute, in large part, to inconsistency from classroom discipline to home-life discipline. Obviously as a teacher, I can do more and am trying new strategies all the time. But, I know that home-life plays a large role because all of these students also come to school saying things like “I’m lazy/stupid/not good at this/not smart enough”. I know for a fact, that I am not teaching them these phrases, but someone (probably at home is). So, parents, here is some unsolicited advice on what to do if your child’s teacher is calling you to notify you that your child ain’t doing sh*t in the classroom.
Use positive reinforcement. Your kids want your attention all the time. You can choose to give them positive attention for positive things they want or negative attention for messing up. However, providing them with negative feedback just reinforces negative behavior.
This should be a no-brainer, but please don’t use put-downs when referring to yourself or your children, they will pick up on these mindsets and start implementing them in their own. Be kind to yourself and your children.
Don’t make excuses for your child. It doesn’t matter if they are the “youngest” or the “only child”, they still need to follow through with the same responsibilities that any of your other kids, or students in the class, have to follow through with. Which leads to…
If you baby your child, they will remain a baby. Some of my 4th graders whine or throw tantrums like toddlers still when they get in trouble/don’t get what they want. All of them because they must get away with this behavior somewhere. All of these also happen to be only children or the youngest in their family (I swear!). But, not all of the only children or youngest children act like this, which tells me their parents tell them “no” sometimes. I’ve literally had a parent tell me her child would be “sad” because he wasn’t getting Pokemon cards because I gave her a negative update. She was asking me what to tell her son. That tells me that he’s probably used to getting what he wants and the parent has a hard time taking responsibility for making her child “sad”. Hopefully him feeling “sad” will make him avoid the negative behavior in the future.
Your kids will not hate you because they didn’t get what they want. In fact, your kids will love you no matter what. You just need to stand your ground and take control. They need to learn that they have to earn rewards. Otherwise, you’re setting them up for getting rewards for not even achieving a goal. Kids will always try to see how much they can get away with, and if you’re allowing them to get away with anything you’re stunting their growth. If you don’t want to raise entitled, unmotivated kids don’t allow them to get away with entitled, unmotivated behaviors.
If one strategy doesn’t work, try another. Get creative, get to know your child (which I’m sure most parents do) and if you yelling at your kid every time the teacher calls doesn’t work, try something else. Ask your child to share with you their feelings or the reasons they won’t complete their work. Get involved and work with them to accomplish goals. Set and finish projects at home, like organizing their video games, painting their room, washing all of the dishes, or folding all of the laundry just to let your child experience how good it feels to accomplish a task.
With all of that said, my next steps as a teacher is to get better at partnering up with parents to come up with concrete goals we can work on together with their child. I’m going to go ahead and try to own that parenting coach hat when I need it on.