I would like to preface this letter with the fact that I am not a parent myself and do understand that when you have children of your own, your perceptions do change. With that being said, it seems today, that parents have this internal conflict with trying to form such a positive relationship with their child that they don’t know where to discipline and where to provide some leeway. They have this vision of being best friends with their child and fear that providing boundaries and consequences will some how hinder their vision.
As a middle child, I certainly did not make parenting easy. Despite my dramatic cries and tantrum throwing efforts, my parents managed to maintained a close and positive relationship with me. They both made an effort so that I was comfortable coming to them. I was never scolded for being open and honest and they did their best to truly listen. At the same time I knew what their expectations were. The expectations my parents held for me at home carried across multiple platforms. These platforms included sports, friends’ houses, school, and even work. I was to be respectful and help where I could; say please and thank you; be responsible; and not talk back to any adults. These expectations helped me navigate through life and taught me a sense of right and wrong, moral and immoral, and that there were consequences for my actions (both good and bad).
I feel it is important to hold our children to these same expectations. Children need to be aware what is allowed and what is not allowed. They need to be taught these expectations so they can practice them and be successful in the real world – whatever their endeavors may be. By having firm boundaries, children know what to expect. They aren’t left in a gray area uncertain and questioning if they are going to get in trouble this time if they didn’t get in trouble last time. This is where consistency and followthrough are important. Threatening children with consequences and then not ever enforcing them teaches them that they don’t have to listen because those consequences won’t actually happen. This could easily have a negative impact as time goes on if not corrected – just imagine Bobby in the work place not believe his boss will truly fire him if he doesn’t get his paperwork completed.
I also feel it is important that our children not only be held to these expectations, but made aware that these are universal expectations. Children need to realize that they will be held accountable in all aspects of their life and that there will most definitely be consequences for their actions. If you are disrespectful to your parent, you very well may be grounded, lose a privilege or be given an additional chore. Likewise, if you are disrespectful at school you will lose recess (this is a debatable consequence and can be discussed at a later time); lose a privilege or be given an additional task. On the other end of the spectrum, students should also learn that if they work hard, are helpful, and go above and beyond that their efforts will be acknowledged (whether it be through a sticker; verbal acknowledgment; or even a natural, good, internal feeling). I feel that if we want our children to be set up for success, not only do they need to understand these expectations but also understand that humility is an admirable thing. Their ownership and honesty should be acknowledged when they take accountability (they should still have consequences enforced, but recognition for their honesty is a must!). Accountability in the classroom is something that I see lacking greatly, today.
In order to ensure our children are set up for success emotionally and academically, we need to let them know that we are a team. We need to recognize that despite the fear of burdening a parent-child relationship, there is probably some fault that the child can take ownership of. We as a team, need to communicate with one another about what we are witnessing at home and in the classroom. We need to acknowledge problems that are arising and positive behaviors that are also being observed. We want the child to see and be aware that we are on the same page and that our expectations will be enforced across different domains. Therefore, as a teacher, I need you to have faith in the integrity of what I am telling you.
As a teacher, I am in no way trying to tell you that your son is a horrible human being. I am in no way trying to tell you that your daughter is the only guilty party in a given situation. I apologize for any negative experiences you may have had with previous teachers, coaches, and/or parents of another child. But please try to recognize that the majority of adults truly want what’s best for your child and are simply trying to reach out for help – help in managing a situation your child can learn and grow from. Please do not automatically assume I am out to get your child or pass judgment on him/her/you. And lastly, if you promise to not believe every single thing your child says about school, I promise to not believe every single thing I hear about home.
We are in this together. In order to ensure success for our children we need to help them navigate them through life so they can be independent and good human beings. They may fight you along the way, but I promise as they become adults, they will thank you. But furthermore, they will respect you.
A loving teacher trying her best