BY LINDA SWANSON, RETIRED ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINICIPAL
Afriend recently said to me “Remember when you were a kid how it seemed like the school year would never end and then summer just flew by?” I had to admit that I could remember that yet in actuality there are far more months in the school year than in the summer vacation schedule. At any rate, the season of school is upon us once again. My wish for all our readers is that it would be a pleasant and productive one. How parents and school personnel, along with the students, make that happen is determined through a variety of ways. If I were to make a list some of those ways would be:
• Read daily with your child.
• Stay in good communication with your child’s teacher and be a team.
• Volunteer at school and attend all events your child is involved in.
• Check their backpacks daily and respond promptly to infor- mation that needs to be returned to the teacher.
• Always contact the school with questions and never put off solving a child’s concern that may make the school environ- ment more pleasant for him or her.
These are suggestions you have read and heard about consistently since having a child or since your child entered their first educational institution. But how consistent are you?
One of the most important things that parents can do is to be consistent. We often think of consistency in the area of discipline. The best way to describe it is: following through with what you told your child you expected with regards to behavior and making sure that what you said you truly did and meant. This philosophy is often heard and is good advice. I would never diminish the importance of following through regarding behavior expectations, yet consistency at home and school goes far beyond good behavior habits.
So just for a few moments, through the end of this article, let’s think about the bigger picture of consistency. Another term for this familiar practice is structure. Teachers value structure in their classrooms and know that a routine at home is beneficial as well. Structure implies a certain amount of organization: clothes, objects, school items and so forth should be stored in the same place. Get your child involved in deciding and knowing where things are in his/her room. Clothes should be selected for school by the child the night before. Items necessary for school (lunch, books, papers, backpacks) should be placed somewhere near the exit door. Keeping track of these things may seem minor, but altogether, they lessen the
number of things your child has to think about.
In addition, children/students thrive on predictability. By providing structure and routine your child’s world at home will become more predictable. Just as your child’s classroom has a schedule your home should be somewhat scheduled. Events such as dinner time and bed time should be scheduled close to the same time each evening. Time to read, complete homework, practice their musical instrument and family fun time should be built into this established schedule. What your child can expect from you when misbehavior interrupts the routine, how you handle interruptions to this schedule and whether or not you follow through with this daily schedule are all part of providing predictability for your child. Daily rituals are part of the structure that both nurture and add security to a child’s life. This trust is a cornerstone of bonding and attachment.
Consistency also means that both parents have a similar approach to behaviors and home routines. If one is too strict and the other too lenient, children will know who to go to if they wish to take advantage. Agree on such issues as family rules, allowance, guidelines for how free time is spent and suitable consequences for misbehavior. This is especially important to do if you are separated or your home is a blended family. If you disagree with the other parent’s approach, do so in a private conversation. When unplanned situations occur don’t be afraid to tell your children that you need to consult with their father or mother before making a decision. This same type of teamwork is important between you and your child’s teacher. There are even similarities in the classroom. Teachers always seek your support through agreement and cooperation as a team in their efforts made at school.
Consistency is one of the most important elements in the relationship with your children. A structured, consistent, predictable environment will provide children with a sense of confidence and security. Your children may not always agree with your actions, but at least they will know what your actions will be. So evaluate where you’ve been in the consistency arena and make improvements if needed. I hope that you have seen, in this article, how consistency at home supports the efforts of our teachers and actually mirrors what they do in their classrooms. Have a great school year!
He was just a little boy,
On a week’s first day.
Wandering home from Bible School,
And dawdling on the way.
He scuffed his shoes into the grass;
He even found a caterpillar
He found a fluffy milkweed pod
And blew out all the ‘filler’
A bird’s nest in a tree overhead,
So wisely placed up so high.
Was just another wonder,
That caught his eager eye.
A neighbor watched his zigzag course
And hailed him from the lawn;
Asked him where he’d been that day
And what was going on.
“I’ve been to Bible School,”
He said and turned a piece of sod,
He picked up a wiggly worm replying,
“I’ve learned a lot about God.”
“M’m, very fine way,” the neighbor said,
“for a boy to spend his time”
“If you’ll tell me where God is,
I’ll give you a brand new dime.”
Quick as a flash the answer came!
Now were his accents faint.
“I’ll give you a dollar, Mister,
If you can tell me where God ain’t”.
Linda Swanson, retired Southwestern Elementary Principal. She earned her B.A. degree from Houghton College and M.S. in Early Childhood Education from Fredonia State. Mrs. Swanson is a lifelong resident of southwestern New York State. Her early teaching experience was at Randolph Elementary. She currently enjoys substitute teaching and volunteering at Z.E.A.L., an after school tutoring program at Zion Covenant church and also a volunteer for Love Inc.