Preventing The Back to School Blues

Those lazy days of summer are over.

In my nearly 22 years of working with families, I repeatedly hear parents complain, “My child won’t do his or her homework.  The scene at home starts when a parent asks a simple question, “Have you done your homework yet?”

Responses vary; some kids ignore the question, others lie and say yes, still others slam doors and cry.  This year can be different!  Here are some suggestions to improve your child’s school year:

Avoid Battles About Homework

Fighting about homework leads to rebellion.  That often leads to more avoidance.   The anger wears away trust between you and your child.

Set Consequences

Ask your child, “What should happen if your homework isn’t done or turned in?  What should happen if your grades slip?”

Listen to their suggestions.  Or, you can suggest the following logical consequences:

  • If your homework isn’t done, you can’t go out and play
  • If your homework isn’t done, there will be additional quiet/
    homework time the next day
  • If your homework isn’t done, write a note to your teacher
    explaining why it’s not done

Consequences for Teens:

  • If your homework isn’t done, you may not use the car
  • If your homework isn’t done, you may not go to work
  • If your homework isn’t done, you may not participate
    in an athletic/school event

It’s important to implement consequences without anger.  Anger reinforces rebellious behavior.  Be firm but friendly.

Notice Progress Not Perfection

Rudolf Dreikurs said, “People need encouragement like plants like water.”  Notice what your child is doing well; be appreciative of their efforts.

A Parent’s Guide for Constructive Conversations with Teachers

It’s the beginning of the school year and the major topic of discussion for kids and parents is, “Who’s your teacher?  Is she nice, is she strict, is she hard, is she a good teacher?”

So much of a child’s success in school seems dependent on the teacher.  But it’s not just the teacher or his/her quality that determines a child’s success.

The school year could go better for everyone if parents have a positive relationship with the teacher.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

That may be an overused proverb, mostly because there’s an element of truth in it.

It’s important to think of a child’s success as a collaboration and partnership with parents, teachers, administrators, neighbors, day care providers, families, friends, and the community at large.  When a child has difficulties in school, often it’s the teacher who is blamed.

This puts an overworked and often underpaid teacher on the defensive.  The blame game is not a very productive one.  No one wins.

Parents can help ensure their child’s positive experience in the classroom by making the classroom teacher an ally.  It is critical to initiate and maintain a respectful, cooperative relationship with teachers.

Here are some tips for constructive communication with your child’s teacher:

Develop Rapport

Does the teacher want to communicate via email, voice mail, telephone conference, or face-to-face meetings?

Remember, a teacher’s schedule doesn’t always allow for quick responses.  Be patient.  A delayed response doesn’t mean your child isn’t important to that teacher.   Let the teacher know about any family stressors such as divorce, an impending move, or birth of a sibling.

Most schools have an open house or parents’ night early in the year.  This is a way to meet the teacher briefly.

Remember the teacher will not know much about your child yet but this is a great opportunity to say hello and begin a relationship that can be ongoing throughout the school year.  Offer to volunteer or help in some way.

Be Empathetic & Supportive

Try to think about the stresses of working with 24 or so elementary school children and in the case of high school 100+ students.  Even if you don’t agree with the teacher, remember she is more apt to help your child if you are supportive.

Avoid Being Defensive

Use “I” statements such as, “I’m worried about my child’s progress” or “I’m confused about why my child received this grade; please help me understand.”   If the teacher says your child has misbehaved, take a deep breath.   Tell the teacher, “I’m sorry you’ve experienced my child this way.  I will talk to him so I can get a better understanding of what happened.”

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”  ~Donald D. Quinn