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Parents - Children's Best Advocates

By: Arlene Mark (1996)

Parents know their children in different and more profound ways than anybody else can know them. Parents know firsthand their children's food preferences, favorite games, waking up and going to sleep times, and things that make them happy, sad, scared or mad. Parents have had years living with, observing, reacting to, understanding, and responding to their children. They have therefore learned under what conditions their children cooperate or resist, initiate or follow, interact or withdraw, and when they are most eager to communicate. Making these patterns of behavior known to your child's teacher is especially important so that the teacher can work with a child's particular behavior pattern rather than against it.

Speak up to professionals

Parents, especially those of children experiencing difficulty in school, are equipped to communicate this kind of information about their children to school-based teams who plan programs and arrange class placement. By speaking up and letting the professionals who teach your children know what works for you, you are greatly increasing the chances that your child will respond to school demands and learn more effectively.

It is the responsibility and right of parents to be present when decisions about their children are made. When notified about a meeting to discuss class placement, change of class, learning or behavior difficulty, parents should be prepared to listen carefully to the situation involving the child. They should then be prepared to offer their own insight based upon their years of experience. For example, a child might have a difficult time buckling down to his work at 8:30 in the morning, but is ready to do so by 9. Another child might tire by 11:30 but get his second wind after lunch. A sensitive teacher might already be accommodating these children; however, another teacher could see these situations as difficult behavior and act accordingly. A parent should alert the teacher that the child is a slower starter but is really ready to get to work if he has encouragement and someone to 'get him started.' The other child might be allowed to finish his assignment and after cleaning up, choose a book to read before lunch. Accommodations that still encourage learning can be made by the teacher, and both child and teacher get what they need, without conflict. A teacher lacking pertinent information about a child's behavior patterns, has little choice but to assume the same expectations for all students. A predictable outcome: resistance, anger, resistance, and more anger, soon add up to behavior problems, lack of cooperation, decreased learning.

Ongoing parent teacher contact

Ongoing parent-teacher contact can help prevent this situation from occurring. As the child gains in academic and social competence and self- esteem, he will be more able to adjust to classroom demands, and even change his behavior patterns in the process. However, left unattended, even simple behavioral situations can grow out of control disproportionally, until specialists must be called in to try to peel away the layers of confusion. By this time, the child has lost precious learning time and has deepened his negative self image because of "his failure."

Your child's unique learning style

Once the teacher understands and can put to use the information provided by the parent: the teacher, in turn, can begin to provide specialized information to help at home. A child who is receptive to learning, happily reveals to his teacher the most effective way of learning. This valuable information, the child's learning style, can help the parent to understand and deal with a child who, for example, "never remembers what she tells him." This child, the parent might discover. is a visual learner, and needs to have visual cues in order to remember. A note on a chalk board in the kitchen could be all that is needed for Jim to remember to do those after school chores. Another child might rely heavily on his auditory sense and need to hear information to remember it. Still another child may need to hear and see the information simultaneously as well as repeat it aloud. These unique learning styles are academic behavior patterns that teachers understand and can translate for parents into strategies that they can use with their children at home. This information exchange between parent and teacher builds trust that leads to even better communication.

When effective parent- teacher communication takes place, the child benefits and learns, the teacher teaches more effectively and the parents can more appropriately parent.

Mark, Arlene. "Parents - Children's Best Advocates." Their World 1990.