Parents Taking on the RESPONSIBILITY of Parenting

While it should be illegal (it is at least immoral) for people to have children (adopt, give birth to, etc.)  and abdicate the education of said child to some one else, the next best thing is to set the expectation high and wide that parents (people who have children) take RESPONSIBILITY and parent.  It has been far too long in coming that our communities demand parent action.  This does not mean helicoptering as that is ‘overparenting’ and does nothing to set boundaries for learning from failures and successes.

It would have never occurred to me a few decades ago that parents needed to be asked and reminded to go to parent conferences, follow through on the progress of their child or actually be told that no one ever died from not watching TV and yet these were all things I had to do my first years of teaching. I was dumbfounded.  How is it my own parents, who both  (one more than 40 miles from home) worked by time I was in middle and high school, figured this out? How is it my parents gave up many a night out or activity to be sure myself and my sister  had library night, were involved in Girl Scouts and all manner of other activities in the community, went to some  free program for kids at the museum, at the local college over the weekend,  volunteered for PTA regularly, checked up on homework being done (we did not even have planners in those dark ages) and followed through on anything lower than a C grade?  Anything less than a C meant two things (1) figure out what you needed help with understanding (2) locate the people/resources (teacher, tutor, classmates parent, book, etc.) to turn the problem around. In retrospect, my parents were nothing short of amazing and driven – they had a desire that their children would do well in the world and lead lives of meaning and purpose.  My parents did not dump tons of money into the situation as we were not wealthy. My parents dumped TIME into the situation.

When I began teaching, PTA did not help the teacher round-up parents and wrangle with the idea of how to follow through on children, although I sure wish the organization had. This would have been the largest difference in the lives of so many children. I took on the burden many times by trying to re-think, re-plan, re-teach, tutor and so forth the students who were lagging behind.  It was never possible to do that much work for 15-20 of my 35 students in lower grades or 75-90 students in upper grades, do my job and have a life – but I tried.

Thankfully amid  all the ‘change’ being made in education, parents have been brought in to the light.  I hope this is the deal changer. It will be many years before we know for certain as a country, however, the research has always shown great parenting conquers much more than a teacher can teach in a school year.

If you are just becoming a teacher – make sure your school puts parents into action. If you already teach, find out what needs to happen to get parents activated at your school.  If you are a student – REMIND YOUR PARENTS TO SUPPORT YOUR BEST EFFORTS.  For all the parents out there thinking this is ‘impossible’ – unplug your TV for six months. None of you will die and your child will be far better for it.


One thought on “Parents Taking on the RESPONSIBILITY of Parenting

  1. Hi – one thing we have is a ‘no electronics’ rule during the week. The kids can read, play games, talk, draw, write stories and otherwise interact with each other and us. Things like helping with dinner and playing with the dog happen too. They each have a responsibility list for every day of the week and most of the time follow it although we do have to ask them. I sit down each day and ask my son what he did that day and we look through his homework. I know parents have a lot of different opinions on what they like/dislike about homework and to be honest, I do like that my 3rd grader has some each night. What it does for me as a parent is help me connect with what he is learning at school so we can incorporate everyday lessons along with his subjects and reinforce them. For example, when he was learning about counting money, counting by five/tens, I made a point of asking him to help me figure out how much to pay the clerks at stores and the green market. Understanding what he was learning in school had relevance in everyday life was very helpful. Cooking and measuring with fractions is another good one we like to do. We try to read together every night and when he was a new reader, I liked to read things just above his level and make mistakes on purpose. They were usually very funny ones and he loved catching and correcting me. It also got him to follow along closely and learn new vocabulary.

    As far as getting parents involved, having a class parent who helps facilitate communication is helpful. I’ve seen this work amazingly when teachers use it effectively. Educators who are willing to use email are gems when they recognize it is how most white collar working parents communicate efficiently. Love your idea about the PTA helping parents with ‘training’ on how to be involved with their kids’ educations. I wonder also if there might be a document that goes home each year – like our schools in NYC do by sending home a ‘code of behavior’ that parents and students must sign. Adults learning to parent are no different than kids learning to learn – I often remind myself of this. Sometimes it’s good to have the protocol spelled out for you. I’d be interested to hear what you think a list like this might look like. Having a workshop or hand-out sponsored by the PTA would be nice – a handout being more likely to reach more people. However, I could see a lot of parents being super offended by the suggestion they need help with their parenting and I imagine you ran into this a lot – as if good parenting is something that you get in the water like floride. It does take a lot of discipline, planning and patience.

    I imagine your parents, like mine, did their research, took the best of what they learned from their own parents and tried to minimize the influence of the worst. They likely networked with other parents to learn of interesting events, activities and ‘extras’ to help with your learning. They bought tickets, rented campsites and signed up as volunteers. It’s what they signed on for when they decided to have kids. As busy as I am with a full time job, I made a point early on to get involved in the PTA so as to learn the way the school worked and establish relationships with the faculty and other parents. It’s given me the reputation of being a ‘mom who cares’. Even if I do slack off now and then, a first impression was made. When my son had social/behavioral issues, the teachers all knew me personally as a caring, supportive parent and it went a LONG way.

    Whenever I can, I also give to ALL students. This is really important because it helps you as a parent of one type of kid learn from the unique gifts children can offer. Recently, my son’s class had a fiction party where parents were invited to celebrate the release of original books they ‘published’. We had the opportunity to go around and read everyone’s books and write comments. I tried to read as many as I could and offer thoughtful critique in keeping with the theme (‘very imaginative setting, you developed your character successfully as the story unfolded, love the realistic dialog, etc.). The teacher spoke with me later and asked if I’d like to come to class and help her work with the kids the next time they were developing a project. Priceless! You don’t get that kind of opportunity by paying for it and well worth taking a day off work. I watched most of the other parents hover near their own kids and write comments on his/her book and maybe those of their kid’s best friends. They missed a lot!

    Interestingly, my ex-husband has always criticized and questioned my involvement and when I signed up for the PTA said, “Well don’t expect me to pick up any slack for you at home while you’re out socializing.” He still doesn’t understand why I would waste my time helping anyone but my own children and maintains I do it all for my own advancement and to feed my ego. Of course I respectfully disagree but it’s likely that many parents feel the same way. ‘The PTA is a clique, that mother is just trying to finagle some advantage for her kid’, etc. are common criticisms. He also complains bitterly about the homework and battles each night to get it done. My own approach is to sit down with them and do my own ‘homework’ at the same time. I may read a book, write in my journal, do research for our family vacation. In this way I’m nearby and available but not hovering. I also give the four year old her own homework – drawing letters, making a picture about something, ‘reading’ a book. This keeps her occupied (aka, not annoying the others) and she feels very important to be with her older siblings often announcing proudly, “I’m doing my ‘homework’,” to everyone.

    Circling back to the electronics issue: It’s no secret why they are so seductive – they turn kids into zombies and keep them out of their parents’ hair. This gives parents time to do their on-line shopping, catch up with e-mails, play Mafia Wars and Farmville and otherwise tune out themselves. Everyone is happy.

    Please write a parent responsibility manifesto – would love to see it!

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