My 7 year old had one of those mornings. You know the kind; she went crazy on me when I tried to help her get dressed (to hurry her along since we were late). You would have thought I was stabbing her for the screaming that ensued when I tried to brush her hair. Her dad finally took her to school (she missed her ride earlier), but came back some time later with her. Apparently, when they got there, she started to cry and carry on that she was “scared” and “nervous” and didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that ultimately she wanted to stay home with mom on mom’s day off (especially since I’m back at work after having a baby) and “scared” was just the excuse. Little did she know, this was not my first rodeo.
I crafted a plan to help her come to her own conclusion that school was better than the alternative of staying home. This was my plan:
MAKE SCHOOL BETTER THAN STAYING HOME
- Take away all privileges.
- No Media
- No playing with friends
- No games, playing, or activities that the child enjoys
- No treats
- Fill the day with undesired work. My daughter hates doing laundry and today happened to be laundry day. Every time I was changing, hanging, or folding laundry, I made her help. It was torture for her. I also had her clean a messy closet. Every parent has a never ending list of things that need cleaning or doing. Have your child do those chores. I very deliberately rattled off 20 things from my “To Do” list and told her we had to go through them
- Eliminate fun things. I was planning on taking lunch to great-grandma later in the day. I quickly rescheduled that activity.
As we continued to do chore after chore, I verbally reiterated that we had to get it all done, these were the things I did why she was having fun at school, and this was what it was like being a grown up. By 10:30 a.m., my daughter was saying, “Please, I don’t want to be a grown up, I want to be a kid. Can I please go back to school?” Victory was mine! I reluctantly agreed to take her back to school. We went into the office together and (winking) asked the office if my daughter could please be allowed to come back to school if she promised never to try and stay home again. The cute office staff, played along and after confirming her promise, agreed to let her back in school. In the end, I may not have gotten all that I wanted to get done on my day off, but I don’t think I’ll have to worry about this child trying to get out of school again.
Parents often come into my office with concerns about their children’s behavior. As I delve into the details, there are often key aspects of the school day that the parents simply don’t know. It often surprises parents when my advice is to arrange times to volunteer in their children’s classroom. It is amazing what you can learn by spending some regular time in the classroom. The more opportunities you can volunteer during regular activities (not just class parties), the more insightful the experience will be.
Seeing firsthand may add insight into why kids act the way they do
- How does your child behave in class? (Of note, your child may act differently the first few times you are in class due to the newness of you being there).
- How does your child interact with other children? Is your child the class clown, being bullied, or completely isolated?
- How does your child stack up next to his/her peers in terms of academic and social development? It may be that you don’t realize your child is really behind in a certain area until seeing other children of the same age.
- What is the teacher’s style of discipline? Is she really strict? Does she single out problem behaviors or discipline the entire class (which can cause a well behaved kid a lot of stress).
- How orderly is the class? (Is your child one that is easily overwhelmed by chaos?)
- How able is the school/teacher able to accommodate different levels of learning? (Is your child bored to death because it’s so slow or being left in the dust?)
Tips while you’re there
- Learn the other kid’s names. It will help add context to the stories your child tells you about school.
- Learn how the teacher runs the class. This will help you advise your child how to succeed in that particular class.
- Learn the teacher’s method of discipline (e.g., moving a clip, pulling a card, names on the board).
- Let the teacher run the class. The classroom is her domain. She’ll introduce you and let you know what she needs help with.
Kids of parents who volunteer have:
- Higher test scores
- Better grades
- Higher self esteem
- Better behavior
- Improved attendance
- Higher rates of graduation
Every school/district is a little different and has different requirements. At my kid’s school, all parent volunteers have to have a background check. Know the requirements ahead of time.
At the beginning of every school year, I make a concerted effort to get into my children’s classrooms. Believe me, I understand life is busy and it’s hard to find the time. Get creative. My son’s class had need for parent reading help. I went every other week from 8-8:30 am, just before work. Over time, I read with most of the kids in his class and learned lots of information. This year, I told my daughter’s teacher the few times I was available. She was happy for the help and easily accommodated my quirky schedule. It also makes communication with that teacher easy, since we get to know each other.