As teachers, we have a huge amount of influence on our tiny charges. But six hours is only one-fourth of a day. Parents, the other 18 hours belong to you… and your parenting choices have an enormous impact, either positive or negative, on your little scholar and by extension, their teacher.

Parenting choices that DON’T help

1. No consistent bedtime:

This is a biggie. Ideally, kids and teens need around ten hours of sleep per night. A regular bedtime routine helps with this, and since wake-up times are usually the same due to school hours, a consistent bedtime is key. Tired children can display lack of focus, excitability and/or lethargy. Learning can be delayed. In fact, chronic tiredness in a student can present as learning disabilities or ADHD. As a teacher, fighting tiredness in kids is much like sticking a finger into a dam when other leaks are spreading everywhere – it feels futile.

2. Early use of social media without parental supervision:

It is shocking how many young children have unlimited access to hand-held devices and social media, without the benefit of parental oversight. In addition to causing lack of sleep when these devices reside in the bedroom (see above), unsupervised social media use results in problems which present in the classroom. It is very easy for a child to viciously bully another online, typing things that they would never say in person. Keep in mind that when a child hurts another child in person, they receive immediate feedback of the consequences of this decision: the other child will cry, or retaliate, or respond in some other way that makes it clear they’ve been hurt. Online, this response is invisible, so the aggressor has been denied an opportunity to learn from it, to develop compassion or empathy. This stunting of social growth has consequences that teachers often have to deal with. Many times, bullying spills over from outside school into the four walls of the classroom, and teachers must use class time to placate parents and mediate conflicts that began the night before.

3. Lack of manners:

A simple please and thank you go a long way to smoothing the social path of a child. Children who have been taught manners get along better with their peers and with adults. Being polite to others at home sets the child up for more positive social interactions outside the home. On the contrary, a rude child will struggle more to make friends and is more likely to experience negative consequences from teachers. It is disheartening for educators to have their greetings ignored, their treats taken for granted, and requests phrased as demands. Repeating, “Say pleeeease” ad nauseum is exhausting.

4. Not teaching kids to be independent:

Parents who delay teaching their children basic life skills – getting dressed, packing and unpacking their backpacks, opening lunch containers, looking after their own belongings – make a teacher’s job so much harder. Yes, having your child do these things independently can take more time at home compared to doing it for them. But having 20 dependent students who need help every day takes up WAY more time in the classroom.

5. Not expecting kids to be accountable:

Kids make mistakes. Every day. Mistakes have both predictable and unpredictable consequences. This is a normal, human, necessary part of growing up. When parents fail to allow children to own their mistakes, to be accountable for them, and to make amends, they are stunting their child’s emotional development. It is part of a teacher’s job to teach children how to be good people. Parents who blame the teacher or other kids for their own child’s actions make this so much more difficult.

Parenting choices that DO help

1. Modeling and teaching respect and gratitude:

It goes without saying that doing this leads to better social skills all around. Plus, having a student who appreciates your work and effort simply warms a teacher’s heart.

2. Supporting with homework:

Valuing education sets a solid foundation for lifelong learning. A parent’s support with homework, even if they can’t figure out “new math”, shows the child that learning is important. A child who has reviewed the material is that much better prepared for class, too. For the teacher, this means less class time used for review and more time to dive into new concepts. A win-win all around!

3. Appreciation for diversity:

Every classroom is a microcosm of the world surrounding the school building. When families actively embrace diversity, teach their children to be anti-racist and gender-inclusive, not only do their children feel the freedom to express their true selves, but in the classroom these children help set the tone for a room that is caring, kind, and inclusive. When teachers promote inclusive ideals, having students who act them out promotes a wonderful classroom community.

4. Resilience through adversity:

School is tough. Let’s face it, LIFE is tough. Parents who allow their children to fail, and encourage the grit it takes to persevere and try again, are demonstrating that hard work matters. When times get tough, and they will, it’s children with resilience who will come out on top. Students who tackle hard problems with enthusiasm, and attempt new solutions when the initial ones failed, are a teacher’s dream. News flash – these often aren’t the high achievers either. They are the stubborn ones, the creative ones, the out-of-the-box thinkers. A family that values these traits over high grades is one that sets their children up for true success.

5. Being organized:

Nothing is more time-consuming than tracking down missing paperwork, waiting for parents who don’t show up to meetings, or recopying lost homework. On the contrary, pizza money in on time, permission slips signed when needed, agendas checked and emails answered: these types of parents make an educator’s job a breeze! Or, at least, as close to breezy as is possible these days…