Saturday, January 7, 2012
Building a Stronger Child II
II-Academic and Parental Expectations:
What’s the difference between “Supporting” your child’s educational experience and “Helicoptering”?
Supporting from my vantage point means that you have good, adult communication with your child’s teachers, including their expectations for your child both academically and behaviorally---allow your child to be a key part of this relationship, including the child taking responsibility for their efforts and work. “Helicoptering” means that you (the parent) control the relationship between your child and the teacher, and most often includes swooping in to rescue the child before he/she fails (or has the opportunity to correct that
failure as part of their relationship with the teacher, and thereby school) ---and very often the “helicopter parent” will do the work for (or at the very least with) the child to stave off any potential for a “sub-par” result.
How do we keep our efforts in check?
Try to be self-aware. This is reminiscent of a Jeff Foxworthy-ism, but here goes: if you think you might be a helicopter parent, then you probably are! This spoken from a guy who tried both sides of the parent-teacher relationship, and ultimately found the non-helicopter version much more satisfying for him AND his son! I became a teacher, special educator, and ultimately a school psychologist later in life, so I know a helicopter parent when I hear / see one coming!
Another good way to look at it is if the teacher gently asks you to let your kid do something to the best of their ability, then you might be at least revving the engines and rotors without lift-off. A good positive, adult relationship with your child’s teacher will go a long way to keeping you from “flying the bird.”
What if your relationship with a particular teacher is not a good one, because of basic personality differences—what can be done?
Let’s face it, sometimes you don’t like a teacher, but what if your kid does? Or visa-versa? If you both don’t have that great feeling, try seeking out the parents of a child in that class---without rounding up support for your own feelings. Maybe that other parent can help you see how to work with that teacher. Again, that positive adult relationship with the teacher needs to be established, so that you can comfortably tell them that “you’re not feeling it!” If that doesn’t cut it, talk with the school principal or vice principal. For the most part, a good site administrator is very welcoming in this type of discussion, and may have a different insight than was provided by the teacher or other parents.
How can we best support our children even when they fail at things?
One of the things that we are all guilty of is trying to protect our children from failure, but that is a way for the child to develop some self-reliance in facing and overcoming that failure, and learning to understand and accept the expectations of non-parent adults. Failure isn’t being retained for a grade, but can be suddenly not “getting” math the way they used to, or missing the point of the short story in writing the response essay. Support from you in working with the teacher to correct this will help your child to learn how to ask for help themselves the next time.