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Mistakes Parents Make


Q. I wish parents of high-school seniors would give a talk at kindergarten roundup, to talk about the things they did that helped their child through the years. I'd like to know the things they wish they had done, and the things they regret doing. How else can parents learn what mistakes to avoid?


With a great attitude like that, you probably won't make many mistakes. The key is to learn as much as you can about school issues and be involved, however you can.


That doesn't mean you have to fall into a black hole of volunteering. It's a myth that the best parents are the ones who are presidents of the PTA and best friends with the school board. In fact, a common mistake is for parents to get over-involved with school volunteering in the early years, get burned out, and then withdraw completely during the middle school and high school years, when their child probably needs their guidance and involvement most. Pace yourself, give yourself grace to be who you are and not try to be a SuperMom or -Dad, and choose a level of involvement that you can live with through the years.


Another mistake is to over-trust the school. You aren't "outsourcing" your child's education to educators. You still bear the lion's share of the load! But don't worry - yours is a fun, rewarding job. Research shows that the best way to help your child succeed in school is - eureka! - informal learning activities. Read to your child, talk about new words, play board games that require math or strategic analysis, ask your child to figure the price of apples per pound at the grocery store, exclaim over events in history that you see repeating themselves in current events. Show that learning is for all of life, not just school.


Another pitfall: viewing the teacher as one of two extremes: an all-knowing authority figure, or an idiot. Surely, there's a happy medium. Establish a professional relationship, as with your child's dentist, doctor or other helper. Never be bossy, but do establish and maintain respectful, two-way communication.


It's wrong to isolate yourself from other parents, too. You should be networking with them and learning from them, just as you do in your career, your sports life, your spiritual life, and so forth. Fellowship is important! Always help out with the parent group, and always try to get to know at least a few of the other moms and dads of the kids in your child's class. Try to have a few friends with children who are a little older, too, so you can learn from their experiences what to expect on down the road, and be a little savvier. It's a big help to have friends with children in rival schools, including private schools, so that you have a basis for comparison and quality assurance.


Don't get down on yourself, no matter what. If you didn't have much education or didn't do well in school, don't worry: that's not as important to your child's chances of success as your attitude toward schooling. If it's the top priority in your home, your child will do well and teachers will love you.


Too many parents think that if they attend the parent-teacher conference, they're done. But your involvement in making education better for your child and for children as a whole goes far beyond that. To be a good citizen, you should be reading about educational issues, going to meetings, voting, and voicing opinions about school issues.


Homework: A great way to get smart about school is the virtual library on


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 14 2008




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