January 15, 2020
By Dr Kathy Weston
I have been ‘out and about’ this month delivering training sessions to staff in schools and talking to hundreds of parents up and down the country. When I do this work, I am always struck by how truly devoted teachers are when it comes to supporting children and young people.
They are the most altruistic and compassionate of people. Equally, parents that I meet will do anything for their children and consistently reiterate the message: ‘I just want my child to be happy’. With this mind, you would think that the teacher-parent partnership would come easily. The reality is that parents and teachers occasionally struggle to see each other as genuine partners and fail to value respective expertise.
Parents are a child’s ‘first teacher,’ so it makes sense for schools to acknowledge this, and capture aspects of parental knowledge about an individual child at the earliest opportunity. What motivates them? What do they enjoy? When are they at their happiest? What worries them? Teachers, on the other hand, are experts in learning and teaching. Parents should respect this and work to support their child’s teachers as far as possible.
Effective partnership is like passing a baton between two team mates. At the start of the school day, parents pass the baton to the teacher(s) and at the end of the school day, the baton is handed back. When we work together, in our respective roles, with mutual respect for one another, children are much more likely to thrive.
I am currently researching sibling rivalry, a topic which has certainly been in the news of late!
As parents, it is heartbreaking to think that one day our children may never speak to one another or have a serious falling out. This is why we need to pay attention to how siblings interact with each other within family life and do what we can to support this unique relationship.
Sometimes, we can inadvertently frustrate sibling relationships through inconsistent approaches and discipline, which can be seen by children as ‘favouring’ one child over another. We need to (a) ensure that each child gets to spend 1:1 time with parents, (b) praise each child when you do see them treating their sibling with respect and (c) ensure that our children enjoy opportunities to work and play together, as a team.
These are quick tips, but I am not underestimating how complex these relationships can be. For the moment, try to take time to think about how your children ‘get on’ with each other. Ask them individually what works well in their relationship and what they would like to see improve. How can you help?
In recent weeks, I have come across lots of children doing early entrance exams or prepping for mocks. Some of them are under a great deal of pressure and parents are struggling to contain their worry about academic outcomes and results.
Remember, that parental anxiety will simply rub off on our children and reduce their chances of performing on the big day. In the run up to exams, try to ‘keep it light’. Remain positive, remind them of far they have come and support them in simple ways. Wherever they choose to revise, ensure they are comfortable. Be there for them. Keep your home quiet and relaxed. When you see your child revising, praise their effort, persistence and perseverance; it is motivating to receive this type of praise.
The night before an exam, it is best for them to ‘chill out’ and have a great sleep. Receiving phone calls from a multitude of family well-wishers may exacerbate children’s stress. Keep calls and cards to a minimum.
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