As a long time teacher, I often think about the strong correlation between effective teaching practices and effective parenting. Even before I had kids, my colleagues and I would discuss the strong parenting traits that helped students thrive while lamenting the lack of parenting that hindered students. It often seemed that the same practices that were successful in teaching applied to effective parenting. Now that I have my own kids, I can even more confidently say that this is the case. Here are some teaching best practices that apply to parenting.
Students thrive on consistency and knowing what is expected of them. It’s hard to expect students to adhere to expectations if the teacher is inconsistent. In fact, inconsistency drives misbehavior. Students see others getting away with something, so they will likely replicate the behavior. Even worse, if the teacher then drops the hammer, students justifiably see it as unfair and lose respect for the teacher.
As a parent, you must also be consistent so your child knows what to expect. This Parenting Without Power Struggles article states, “Long, drawn out negotiations and inconsistent expectations cause confusion and can prevent children from making good choices.” For example, if you have an expectation that toys need to be picked up before your child can watch TV, you need to be consistent. If you’re not consistent enforcing this, you can’t expect your child to take it seriously and actually do this. Kids are very perceptive little creatures and will absolutely pick up on inconsistencies. If you’re not consistent, you’ll be dealing with a lot more behavior issues and power struggles.
Here’s a quick anecdote about not being consistent. My son, who was 3 at the time, was enrolled in a weekly indoor gym class. Every week, there was this boy who rarely listened to the instructors. Rather than follow the class, he would run off and play on the equipment as he pleased. (In case anyone is thinking this, there was nothing to indicate any medical reason for his behavior). He would regularly even leave the gym area and come out to where the parents were watching. The mother would always say things like, “You need to go in and listen or we’re leaving.” Occasionally, she would even pick up their stuff to sell it, but the empty threats were painfully obvious. Sometimes, she would say how he wouldn’t get the hand stamps at the end of class, but of course, every time she let him go get his hand stamped. The fact that she was never consistent following through on the consequences of her son’s behavior is exactly the reason why he acted this way. Unfortunately, the mom’s only consistency was her inconsistency.
To have an orderly, well-run classroom, a teacher must be consistent. To have responsible kids that listen and are respectful, a parent must be consistent.
I’ve always believed that well run classrooms are ones where students can largely guide themselves. For example, the routines for the start of class are so well established that students can come in and begin working without the teacher having to direct them. Many teachers have warm ups / bell ringers and a general process that students know to follow when class begins. It’s pretty awesome when you see it done well. Routines help students be organized, learn efficiency, take responsibility and ownership, and feel confident. Sure, there are appropriate times for routines to differ from the norm, but the vast majority of a teacher’s lessons should have a set structure.
Routines are imperative in parenting too. It’s incredibly important at the younger ages where infants and toddlers are growing and learning so fast. You should definitely have well thought out routines for key, every day occurrences such as bedtime, dinner, and screen time. Here’s an article that discusses this in more detail if you’re interested. When you have established routines, even young kids will show tremendous responsibility. When our son was only about 3, he would often come let us know it was time to go upstairs for bedtime because he knew the routine so well. He would and still does remind us when we forget part of the routine. For example, if we forget to brush his teeth before reading books for bedtime, he’ll say, “But we didn’t brush teeth!” Even when we travel, we try to stick to our established routines as much as possible. In a way, routines are even more important in these cases as they provide familiarity in an unfamiliar situation.
Whether it’s a classroom or household, kids need established routines to feel confident and secure and develop self-responsibility.
Remember Your Role
Some teachers forget their primary role is to be the students’ teacher and instead try too much to be friendly with the students. There is this misconception with some teachers that being friendly with students equates to greater respect. In reality, it’s the opposite. This post does a good job of explaining this. Teachers are professionals with the responsibility of leading students and preparing them for academic success. Teachers are not fellow peers but rather occupy a different relationship level. In other words, teachers should not be preoccupied with whether students like them or not. The great thing is that students will naturally like and respect strong teachers who genuinely work hard and care about them.
Likewise, parents need to remember their primary role is to parent. Don’t make the mistake of prioritizing being friends with your kids over being their parent. It sounds obvious, but many parents do this. They give in to what the kids want instead of what they need. For example, you regularly let your kids stay up later than their bedtime or are too lenient with misbehavior because you don’t want them to dislike you. Just like in teaching though, the wonderful thing is that you if you fulfill your parenting role dutifully, chances are even better that you’ll be best friends with your kids. This is because they’ll have structure, feel secure and respected, and respect you in return.
Teachers and parents alike want their kids to like them. This is definitely a good thing. Just make sure not to allow this friendship to override the main responsibilities as a teacher and parent.
Explain Objectives / Reasons
A fundamental practice that teachers should do is explain the objectives for lessons and units. It’s easy for the objectives to get lost in the day-to-day grind. Knowing the big picture of where the skills they are practicing will ultimately lead helps students stay focused. As adults, we are usually clear on what objectives our actions are working towards. For example, a person may gather marketing data for the objective of a presentation for a new product launch. Knowing this objective helps the person stay focused on gathering meaningful and appropriate data. It’s no different with students. Understanding the objectives helps provide context for the work the students do.
While it’s not as formal as stating objectives in a classroom, it’s an effective parenting practice to explain reasons to kids. Kids absorb and learn so much as they grow, so it’s the best time to instill these reasons in them. You can explain why it’s good to eat vegetables. You can explain why it’s important to wear a helmet when riding a bike. For example, we tell and remind our son often that eating dinner makes him healthy and strong. We’ll then reinforce this at appropriate times. When he helps us carry something, we’ll saying something like, “You’re so strong! That’s cause you do a good job eating your dinner.”
Kids and people in general have a natural desire in wanting things to make sense. So, it’s logical and a great practice for teachers to explain objectives to students and parents to explain reasons to kids.
Provide Frequent Feedback
Teachers absolutely need to provide frequent feedback to students. Feedback can be informal or formal, positive or constructive, but students need to have a sense of how well they are grasping content and concepts. Feedback helps students feel proud when they do well and helps them understand how to improve when they make mistakes. Providing regular feedback is a vital part of any successful teacher’s practice.
Kids need regular feedback from parents too. Feedback for those big events like when your kid first starts riding a two-wheeler comes naturally, but feedback should occur frequently for the little everyday things too. Give them constructive feedback on how to hold a fork. Tell them how well they did brushing their teeth.
In simple terms, feedback is just communication. Teachers should constantly be communicating with students so they have a strong sense of their progress. Likewise, parents need to communicate frequently with kids to build confidence and self-reflection.
Great teachers never stop learning or think that they know it all. Honestly, this can be said about any profession. It’s one thing to agree with this, but it’s another thing to be actionable. Being resourceful means that you actively seek out resources and ways to be make that lesson better or to develop better teaching skills. Don’t forget about your own colleagues as resources. Sharing ideas and tips with fellow teachers is often the best way to be resourceful.
Parenting definitely has its challenges. Most first time parents read and educate themselves on all sorts of things especially when challenges pop up. Often though, as we become more experienced parents or have our second kid or more, it’s easier to be complacent. But there are always new research and new ideas, so seek it out! Maybe there’s an idea for the bedtime routine that you never though of, or an amazing parenting hack. With how connected we are today via the internet and social media, it’s so easy to find resources and even parenting groups (meetup.com can be a great resource) whether online or even local ones. There really is no reason why we can’t be resourceful as parents and continually work to be better for our kids.
Don’t stop learning! The day learning stops is the day improvement stops. People who are great at anything find resources to solve issues and seek advice from others.
Have Any Other Great Practices?
There are certainly other great teaching practices that apply well to effective parenting. What are some practices you can think of? Please share via the comments below.