For the next few years you will be dropping off and fetching your child from school.
Helping them with homework, attending sports and other events and also socializing with other parents at school.
You need to treasure every moment, make an effort to spend as much time with your child as possible and make memories with your children during these years that will last them a lifetime.
It may feel like an eternity now but believe me these years are going to fly past.
I want to give you some pointers on how to make these years more successful and less stressful.
These pointers have come from learning from other parents, from taking and seeking advice, from experiencing many tears and failures over the years and from celebrating the good times when we got it right!
There is a Nigerian proverb that says “It takes a whole village to raise a child”
You need to start building your village as soon as possible. You need to make friends with your children’s friend’s parents and start sharing the responsibilities of raising children. You cannot raise a child on your own. It is vital that you receive support from the community. Over the years our family built an amazing village and I doubt very much we would have survived primary and high school as well as we did if we weren’t part of a ‘village’!
Before writing this I sent an email out to some of my villagers asking them what advice they would give to parents of Primary school children and I was amazed at how similar the replies were and in line with what I had already jotted down.
Firstly, you are your child’s parent, you are not their friend.
- You need to discipline and disciple your child, care and nurture your child. You are not called to be their friend. They will have lots of those.
Make sure the instructions you give your child are very clearly explained and also give them a reason why they need to do certain things.
A father came home from work one day to find his children brushing the dog’s teeth with his toothbrush. He was horrified. His little daughter looked up and saw his horrified expression and immediately said “Don’t worry daddy, we will put your toothbrush back exactly where we found it”. As I said, explain the reasons for things!
Children need routine. They need to know their boundaries.
They need a minimum of eight hours sleep.
During the week have a set bed time and a set time to wake up. Prepare everything the day before.
Make sure that their school uniform is laid out ready for them in the morning. Check the timetable and ensure that they have the correct PE clothes, books etc. that they will need. Don’t do it for them, but do supervise them doing it.
The homework diary needs to be checked and signed.
Strive as hard as you can to have supper together in the evenings as a family.
The supper table is the place where children learn to communicate and interact on a social basis and where manners are taught. It is your job as a parent to teach your child manners. It is the teachers job to re-inforce those manners.
Television time during the week should be severely limited and there should be no television at least an hour before bed. They need to prepare for school and then get to spend some time with you.
Read them a story, lie on the floor and tell each other stories. Do relaxation exercises. Watching television stimulates their brains making it difficult for them to fall asleep
Don’t ask your child questions that result in one word answers.
How was your day? Fine
Did you have fun today? Yes
What did you do today at school? Work
Instead ask something like this: Did your teacher do or say anything funny today?
Did you find anything really difficult to do today?
On a scale of 0 to 10 – with 10 being absolutely amazing and 0 being just okay – what number would you rate your day.
Avoid words like 0 being terrible as that puts a negative spin on the question.Then tell your child how you rated your day and why? This encourages active communication and teaches your child to listen to others.
- One mom suggested that children are much more talkative towards puppets … so if you have a non-talker at home, get a hand puppet (and give it a name and a loving and interesting personality) You might be surprised how much your child talks!
Don’t compare your child to other children. Your child is an individual. There are always going to be children who are more organized, who learn at a faster pace, who will always look clean and tidy and neat.
There are few things more discouraging to a child than to hear “why can’t you be more like her – she never loses things”. “Just look how well she has done, you are going to have to work harder”
Don’t panic if your child is the last child in the class to learn to read, it does not mean they are stupid. Children mature academically differently.
Get involved in your child’s school life in a positive way. It is paramount that the fundamental basics of education are firmly in place – should you wish your child to not only perform well later on, but also to support their confidence in themselves so get involved with their homework and projects. Show interest but please don’t do it for them.
And then almost every parent I asked added this:
Don’t get involved in your children’s fights. Short of them being bullied, stay out of the fight.
You are only going to make it worse and they generally manage to sort themselves out.Only intervene in a friendship if it is negatively impacting your child on a long term basis and even then proceed with caution. Children generally have a way of working things out themselves.
Unless you have something positive to say about your child’s teacher rather not say anything at all. It is not fair on your child if you are negative about her teacher – she still needs to be in the class every day.
And on that note if you are unhappy about something please make an appointment to see the teacher. If things don’t improve then only go to the head mistress.
- Please also don’t become a member of the ‘pavement gang’. This is the group of parents who meet on the pavement outside the school and gossip about the teachers, each other and the children. It is a horrible group!
- Keep in mind the maxim ‘this too will pass!’
Your child will go through various stages of behavior – some good some not so good and whilst dealing with it just keep repeating ‘this too will pass’.
- take the stories your child comes home with from school with a pinch of salt – and don’t believe everything they say BUT
- watch their long-term happiness-levels! If too quiet (or playing up), something is up!
- If homework is a problem: play games that teach what your child has to learn!
- Go to all the sports-games! You will meet other parents, have something to talk to about to your children, get to know other people’s children (whom you are lifting) and it’s exciting to watch your own child play – even if it is a sport you don’t usually like. You will be amazed at how enthusiastic you become when it is your child on the sports field or in the swimming pool!
- Teach your child how to take responsibility for their property and don’t bale them out by bringing their lunch, homework etc to school if they have forgotten it at home. Children need to know that there are consequences – both negative and positive – for their actions. You rob them of this learning if you always bale them out.
- Teach your child good work ethics – this begins with them making their own beds, doing the dishes and helping with house hold chores.
- Instill in your child during primary school years that she is a clever child with lots of potential and you will be setting the basis for a successful school career.
- Encourage your child to take part in extra-murals but also keep in mind that your child also needs time to just relax and play.
In closing I want to share with you an incident that changed my whole perspective of parenthood!
When our middle daughter was eight years old I was driving her and a friend to a birthday party and the two of them were sitting on the back seat discussing the jobs that their parents did. My daughter’s friend said “my mommy is a writer, a teacher and an editor”. I said “don’t forget that one of her jobs is also being a parent”. Her response was instantaneous “o no, my mommy says that is not a job that is sheer joy”.
Don’t let your children feel like they are a burden or a job, let them feel that they are sheer joy.
I would like to thank all the people in my village for their contributions. I would especially like to thank Anja Wilkinson-Bienmuller for taking my request so seriously and giving me so much feed back. Her input makes up a fair deal of this article!!