Please know that teachers understand how difficult it is to raise children – wisely guiding them through life and their educational experiences often requires developing partnerships.
I taught elementary grades in Modesto City Schools for 22 years, and have benefited from those partnerships. Here’s the best three pieces of advice I’ve offered to parents concerned over how to help their children.
Talk to your children. Tell them repeatedly that their good efforts, and what they’re learning, is important to you. Tell them how proud you are when they achieve or meet a goal. Always say positive things about learning and about their school. If you have issues with staff or administration, those are your issues – not theirs.
And your children don’t need to know how poorly you did in school. Describing your failures often becomes a “green light” for children to think it’s OK for them to fail, too. Saying, “I struggled, but I made it,” is a better message. As a teacher, I tried to encourage using reality, often telling my students, “I know this is hard, but don’t give up; you’ll succeed.” Offering a false positive – “This is easy!” – hurts more than it helps. Easy for you is not necessarily easy for them.
Put in the time. Sit with your child as he or she is doing homework. No matter how hectic family life or the demands of jobs, carve out time to listen, to ask about their day at school. Attend school functions as often as you can. Showing your interest shows respect for your child and for their efforts in school.
Show your love. Virtually all parents love their children, but don’t assume they simply feel that love. I could tell which of my students came from a loving home – they had smiles on their faces and they were excited to be in school, among their friends. They were relaxed.
I also knew those whose home life was a struggle. They appeared to feel that they were “on their own” – you could see it in their faces. I’ve known 9-year-olds who thought they were a burden – that everything wrong in their lives was their fault.
As parents, we’d all love to raise obedient, angelic children who appreciate all we do for them – providing a safe home with plenty of food and unending support. But that’s not everyone’s reality. Those living with less know that the struggle to succeed is greater.
Economic status has nothing to do with love. Even living in prosperity, children who are ignored or marginalized seldom feel loved. When you talk to your children every day, encourage them and tell them they are the brightest spot in your day, they know they are loved. With your words, your actions and your love, they’ll be just fine.
Rick Wilcox is a retired Modesto schoolteacher who lives in Oakdale.
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