You’re muttering to yourself that you can’t believe the summer has gone by as quickly as it has. You wonder whether you’ve done enough of the traditional summer activities before it’s all gone.
And then there is the pit in the stomach. I know you’re feeling it.
The school year is starting again.
All the parenting magazines, websites, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will be having all of the “Back to School Tips for Success” articles for having the best school year ever and you’ll soon start scratching your head wondering what planet these people are on with their cheery tips. Some of you might be new parents and looking at independent league tables to find the perfect school for your kid. Whatever stage of parenting you are going through, the back-to-school tips can be confusing.
I feel your pain.
Even though I’ve written this kind of thing before in different forms, I will try and give you my top tips. Something tells me you’re not going to see these tips in the magazines or social media:
Stay Calm: I know. It’s a lot easier said than done. Practice following your breath meditation, taking brisk walks around the neighborhood-anything to try and help you walk it back some when your child is pushing your buttons.
Responding to the Whining: Parents get excessive whining accompanying homework or any independent tasks that are given to the child. The refrain goes something like this while the child is rolling around on the floor, “I hate school. It’s so boring,” followed by a mild, moderate or severe tantrum. (Seemingly the only thing that can calm it down is access to some type of screen, such as and iPad, Xbox or cell phone, kind of like a version of a baby’s bottle calming the baby down when it’s crying.) While you are deep breathing and stay calm (Point #1) have a ready answer that you can repeat on a daily basis while you are shrugging your shoulders. It goes something like this, “You’re right. School isn’t fun. It never was. Homework is boring. It always was.” That’s it. That is your mantra.
Finding the Goldilock’s Point: For those of you who remember Goldilocks and the Three Bears (if not, Google it), Goldilocks taste-tested the bear’s soup to see if it was too hot, too cold, or just right. Parental homework involvement should be the process. If you’re in too deep, it’s too hot and your child will take advantage of you. If you’re not involved, too cold, especially if your child has a learning problem, he probably needs a bit more support than you are offering.
Finding that middle point where you are not in too hot or too cold, but just right is what we are looking for.
As a guideline, I like to tell parents to be 10% involved with the child’s academic work. Much more than that is probably too hot.
Remember, Screens are An Earned Privilege: Unless the child somehow is paying for the Internet, his cell phone and iPad, then access to these are all privileges. Keep asking yourself (on a daily basis) has your child earned the privilege. Too many children view their accessibility as a right – “I breathe therefore I get my Xbox.” You need to bring a better dose of reality to their brains. That is, “You give and you get.” It’s that simple. Don’t overcomplicate it. Lay out the rules as to how homework and other academic tasks will go. You are in charge of overseeing it. If there is good faith effort, then a nice green check can go in the calendar (get an old school calendar and put it on the wall, not an App or other such other such thing on your phone). You will convey to your child, if the green check goes on the calendar, then the evening is free play. Go enjoy yourself. If there is no green check on the calendar, then you have not earned screens and it’s going to be a very boring night.” No punishments. No yelling just clarity.
There it is. The Selznickian tips for a great school year.