Through emails, at collection time, and during many parent conferences, the same wonderings come up again and again. Many of you ask: “Does my child have a split personality?” It seems as if you and I know two different children. The child I know is independent, confident, and can organize their own things. But the child you know uses baby talk, won’t sit through a meal, and can’t tidy up their own toys.
I’ll let you in on a little teacher secret. Though school is a place of wild creativity and inquiry-based learning, teachers spend the first few weeks establishing structure and routines so chaos doesn’t ensue. As busy parents, we can sometimes find excuses to “let things slide” with our kiddos. And I know I’ve been guilty of this too! But I must remind myself– what lesson am I teaching my child when I don’t adhere to set boundaries and expectations? If we want to raise our children to be independent, respectful, and mindful of others’ perspectives… the lessons start young. And as a teacher to 22 young, willful, and energetic young’ns, I just don’t have the luxury to “let things slide.”
So here’s the new mantra I empower you to adopt: I CAN expect more from my child!
For the early childhood student, we expect them to: tidy toys, tip the sand out of their shoes, be self-sufficient at toilet time, wash their hands, open their lunch boxes, hang up their own hat, feed themselves, and carry their own backpack to and from school.
An elementary-aged child is expected to: do all of the above and organize their work, take charge of their stuff (hat, water bottle, library bag, etc.),pack their own lunchbox and school bag, and act appropriately in different settings (be mindful of other learners, share toys on the playground, be accountable for your stuff, etc.).
Do you see a trend?
At school, we don’t do things for children. We wait for them to do the work themselves. We cajole, prompt, cheer, urge, remind, and remind, and remind… but we don’t do it for them!
But once the students cross the threshold from school to home, the expectations often change. Every day, I stop students from handing off their bags and water bottles to parents or helpers. Regularly, I urge parents to stop feeding their child while the child blankly uses a phone or iPad. Who’s doing all the work? Who works for who? And who looks like the fool?
If you raise the bar and expect more from your kid, they will rise to the occasion! If your expectations of your child’s independence match mine, they will be far more successful and the home-school message will be exactly the same.
Believe me, if you expect more from your child, they might not hit the target each and every day, but you’ll get closer to raising a confident, independent, and respectful child!
To get some ideas about how to reinforce independence at home, check out this Parent’s Article.