The Child, the Parent and the School

Ben Benson, MS
Hamilton Middle School, Madison, WI

A good education begins at birth. Mom and Dad are the first, most significant teachers a student will ever have.

For the first five to six years it is the parents who lay the foundation for the student to be.

Even after the child begins his or her formal education it should be noted that only 12% of his or her time is actually spent in the classroom. The remaining 88% is away from the school environment and under parental supervision.

Having said that it should be reasonably clear that the parents have a significant role to play for the child's chances for success in school.

The following discussion will address six suggestions for parents on how they might improve the performance of both the student and the teacher in the classroom.

  1. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs simply stated says that a student who has no home to go to will probably not be able to learn math today. A student who is not loved and respected by those that have given him or her life will not be too interested in the daily science lesson.

    Number one parent responsibility--provide physical and psychological support to the child so that he or she might be open to learning something new.

  2. Number two parent responsibility--encourage the child to take chances and make mistakes.

    It is ever so easy to stay in the place that we know and have mastered. The unknown is a dark and scary place but we all can benefit from encouragement from those we trust, to enter into new uncharted areas.

    Perfection is not the goal--improvement is. While we are improving we will make mistakes. Applaud the effort, celebrate the improvement and encourage and support the next adventure in learning.

  3. Number three parent responsibility--help the student/child to plan and organize for success in learning. "Success will come to those who wait" is a flawed premise to base an individual's future on. Setting goals and developing a plan to reach those goals provides the greatest opportunity for success and happiness with life.

    Children do not naturally know how to set goals and even when they do they are not fully aware that they are doing so. The parents can formalize the process and help the child develop the skill.

  4. Number four parent responsibility--value learning, school, effort, honesty, others etc.--be a positive role model! "Do as I say, not as I do" is difficult, even impossible for some children to comprehend. In the early years children deal in the "concrete" not the "abstract." Children are literal in their interpretation of the world around them. Confusing messages lead to confusing conclusions and actions.

  5. Number five parent responsibility--teach the child to accept responsibility for what he or she do and do not do. Blaming other factors for a child's lack of growth and success in life is an empty vessel.

    Teaching your child to accept responsibility gives him or her the power to find solutions. Blaming other factors means that we now have to wait for those factors to correct themselves. We are powerless and begin marking time. We stagnate and do not continue to grow.

    By taking responsibility we can then seek out solutions and continue on with our lives.

  6. Finally--number six parent responsibility--share the view that learning/education is a lifetime event. We continue to learn until we draw our very last breath. Knowledge and information are gathered in everything that we do. Applying all that we learn and incorporating it into our lives is a never ending process. Embracing knowledge, whatever its source is how we grow as individuals.

In Summary:

  1. Provide physical and psychological support.
  2. Encourage the child to take chances and make mistakes.
  3. Teach the child to plan, organize and set goals for success.
  4. Be a positive role model.
  5. Teach the child to accept responsibility.
  6. Explain that learning is a lifetime process and knowledge can be found everywhere.

Copyright © 1999 Ben Benson.

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