What advice would you offer to parents?
For years, I’ve worked with some of the most gifted and vulnerable students in British society. I’ve worked with students and have established some fantastic relationships with their families. However, not everything can be glazed over rose-tinted glasses. There have been many challenges and mistakes I’d care to forget.
As with all work associated with ‘what a teacher does’ in a school, establishing yourself as a voice of authority is hard-earned and built upon the foundations of trust, honesty and evidence. Here are the seven ‘parenting sins’ that have irritated me the most as a teacher, a school leader and as a parent standing in-line during the school run.
We’ve all done it; thrown a pizza in the oven or grabbed a take-away, but conscientious parents don’t do this every night, nor do they give their child daily pocket-money to make their own decisions. An interested parent takes an active role in their child’s diet. We accept that kids will eat junk and that ‘sugar’ will dominate proceedings, but calculating parents will consider how many vegetables, water and fruit can be included into the weekly shop or meals around the table.
“But what if there is no stable home, family or even a dining table?” I hear some readers ask.
Well, this is where schools can intervene and take control, with healthy menus, reduced sugary offerings and communal eating offered in the canteen at break and lunch times. “Teaching children to cook is the most important lesson in life” writes the Schools Food Trust, and I have to agree. Every school can dictate the agenda – even if schools are facing financial cuts.
Remember, tax on sugary drinks is due to become law in England, April 2018.
2. Sloth (Late Nights)
I suspect most parents have their kids wrapped up in bed, or at least home before the 9PM watershed. However, we do know that some parents may a) have their child at home, but unaware that digital devices are dominating proceedings under the duvet. Or b) lose control of their child for whatever reason; drugs, crime and are on the streets until late at night.
Research shows 1 in 5 students lose sleep during the night, due to social media. If you are a parent, where does your child keep their digital devices when going to bed? Worse, why aren’t they at home before 9PM?
3. Greed (Health)
There are over 4 million children living below the poverty line in the U.K. Research by the Trussell Trust and statistics from the National Pupil Database (Department for Education) hat shows children who achieve 5 A*-Cs outweighs other students by over a quarter, when compared to students of low-income and/or students who receive free school meals.
If you are a well-to-do parent, when last did you give a voluntary donation to your school (to help less fortunate students)?
Listen to my interview on the Voice of Islam.
4. Envy (Wellbeing)
Growing up is complicated and young people are vulnerable. It is vital that parents do all they can to nurture the social, emotional and mental health care of children. This is not pandering to their every needs, nor giving them an iPad and assuming you are looking after them. This is not parenting, nor is bringing up a child to be confident, under the guise of arrogance and disrespect for their teacher. Research published by The Children’s Society says:
“Household income matters – because of the impact it has on whether children themselves feel materially deprived. The lack of items and experiences, such as an outdoor space to play in, or regular trips out with their family, impacts on well-being.”
Spoil your kids, but in moderation.
5. Pride (Involvement)
Take an active interest in what your child is doing at school. Engage with school email and text alerts, attend parents evenings and most of all, contact the school when you have a question or a problem. In the worst examples, parents see the role of a school as a free childcare service, expecting the school to meet their every beck and call.
Take pride into context and be ‘part of’ the school community. Attend sports day, or volunteer?
6. Wrath (Role Model)
Yes, you! A child’s expectations and manners are set by the standards you establish as a parent. If your child observes you screaming at another adult, or hurling abuse from behind the steering wheel, your child will ‘soak this behaviour’ up and assume it is acceptable, soon becoming normalised.
The greatest role model in a child’s life is their parents. If they are not present for whatever reason – and in many children’s lives, this is the case – then next of kin, adopted or foster parents are their next best chance to be successful. Having a role model cannot be left to peers wandering the streets or causing mischief in the local parks.
Failing that, teachers are the last chance for these children. Respect every teacher.
7. Lust (Selfless Attitude)
Other indications of selfishness, are when families who fail to take school term time seriously. Holidays are holidays and term time is time for working. Less than 90% attendance in school is unsatisfactory, particularly if there is no genuine reason for your child to be absent from school, or not believing there should be any consequences for their child if they are late to school.
Having taught in schools for over 20 years and having been a parent for the past six, I feel I am fairly qualified to share my views on a topic that could potentially be taken out of context. This post is offered to those parents who fail to place their child at the heart of their education; not due to personal circumstances. I suspect those I hope to read this post, may not see it or take heed of the advice and research offered.