What the teach­ers want you to know

Par­ents may not re­alise how the lit­tle things they do at preschool im­pact neg­a­tively on their child – and teach­ers can’t tell them, for fear of giv­ing of­fence. Here are the top ten habits your kids’ teach­ers want you to lose

Your Baby & Toddler - - Front Page - BY TRACEY HAWTHORNE

There are ul­ti­mately two be­hav­iours that en­sure a healthy rap­port be­tween preschool teacher, par­ent and tod­dler. The first is a par­ent who in­stils self re­spect in their child. “Once you’ve done that, much of the rest falls into place.” The sec­ond is a par­ent who works with, rather than against, the teacher: “After all, we do have one very im­por­tant thing in common – your child.” This is ac­cord­ing to three sea­soned preschool teach­ers with almost 60 years of ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween them, in both gov­ern­ment and pri­vate schools in Cape Town, Jo­han­nes­burg and Dur­ban. They’ve cho­sen to stay anony­mous here, but be­cause there are lots of lit­tle things that par­ents do un­wit­tingly that cre­ate un­nec­es­sary stress for both their chil­dren and the teach­ers – and, by ex­ten­sion, for them­selves too, they’ve de­cided to spill the beans. They’re habits that are easy to break if you just know what they are.

FOLLOW THE SCHOOL RULES

Re­spect the class rules and en­cour­age your child to do the same. “Don’t say, ‘Tell the teacher I said you can have sweets in your lunch­box,’ if the rule is ‘no sweets’,” says Teacher A. “And please don’t let your kids bring toys to school – this is usu­ally cat­a­strophic,” adds Teacher C.

“Chil­dren learn by ob­serv­ing their par­ents’ be­hav­iour, so if the par­ent breaks the rules, then the child au­to­mat­i­cally as­sumes he can do the same,” says ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­o­gist Zandile Shabangu, who splits her pro­fes­sional time be­tween Vaal Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy in Van­der­bi­jl­park and pri­vate prac­tice. “If your child sees you work­ing to­gether with the teacher, de­liv­er­ing one con­sis­tent mes­sage, he’ll en­joy a sense of sta­bil­ity both at school and at home.”

DON’T USE DROP­PING OFF OR FETCH­ING TIME FOR SO­CIAL CATCH-UPS…

School time is your child’s time, say the teach­ers. “Chat­ting up a storm with your friends when at school is of­ten when the wheels come off, as your child is try­ing to show you some­thing im­por­tant to them, or try­ing to tell you some­thing, and all they get is, ‘Hang on, dar­ling, Mummy’s talk­ing…’,” says Teacher B.

“Not pay­ing at­ten­tion to your child while he’s try­ing to con­vey im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion to you will make him feel as if he’s not im­por­tant to you,” says Zandile.

… AND GET OFF YOUR PHONE WHEN YOUR DROP OFF (OR PICK UP) YOUR CHILD

“This is their time with you, not to be shared with work or your daily ar­range­ments,” says Teacher A.

A SICK CHILD MEANS NO SCHOOL

“If your child has had a bad night, rather keep him at home,” says Teacher B. “Oth­er­wise, we get a sit­u­a­tion where the mother says, ‘Johnny has been sick all night and run­ning a fever, but he seems fine now.’ Then she rushes off and five min­utes later Johnny starts vom­it­ing all over the car­pet.” Be smart

about it, though, be­cause there could be some­thing at play if he’s fak­ing it. “If your child says he’s not well but there’s ab­so­lutely no phys­i­cal ev­i­dence of ill­ness, you need to do some in­ves­ti­gat­ing. There might be some­thing go­ing on at school that he wants to avoid by stay­ing at home,” says Zandile.

DON’T HOVER

“Keep the drop­ping off rou­tine quick and clean,” says Teacher A. “If your child is anx­ious about you leav­ing, give him an ex­act time limit of how long you’re go­ing to stay, and then stick to it. For ex­am­ple, ‘I’m go­ing to read you one story, push you on the swing, and then I’m go­ing.’”

“And al­ways say goodbye to your child and make sure he hears you,” adds Teacher C.

“It’s a two way street,” says Zandile. “You need to trust that your child can man­age with­out you for a few hours, and you must stick to your prom­ises so that your child knows he can trust you to do what you say you will – so if some­thing hap­pens that’s go­ing to make you late to fetch him, call the school and let them know so that they can tell your child.”

DON’T GIVE YOUR CHILD EX­CUSES FOR RUDE BE­HAV­IOUR

“No­body wins when a child is be­ing rude and the mother says, ‘Sorry, but Davey’s tired this morn­ing; that’s why he won’t greet you,’” says Teacher B. And Teacher C adds, “The par­ent needs to be in charge – a child who’s ‘in charge’ of­ten ac­tu­ally feels in­se­cure and then bad be­hav­iour en­sues.”

Zandile agrees. “Par­ents need to set clearly de­fined bound­aries for their chil­dren so that they know what be­hav­iour is ac­cept­able, and so that they’re given the op­por­tu­nity to learn from the con­se­quences of their own de­ci­sions and ac­tions.”

DON’T DO FOR YOUR CHILD WHAT HE CAN AC­TU­ALLY DO FOR HIM­SELF

“Pack­ing your child’s bag with him, rather than for him, the night be­fore will teach him to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ac­tiv­i­ties of the fol­low­ing day,” says Teacher C.

“Giv­ing your child the op­por­tu­nity to learn some re­spon­si­bil­ity and in­de­pen­dence helps him de­velop his self con­fi­dence,” Zandile points out. Try not to fall into the trap of quickly tak­ing over a task your­self be­cause you’re busy and stressed. Rather, take a few ex­tra min­utes to show your child how and you’ll be amazed at how much more he’ll do for him­self.

DON’T ASK “WHAT IS IT?” SAY, “TELL ME ABOUT IT.”

“When your child proudly presents you with a piece of art­work, com­pli­ment it im­me­di­ately. It doesn’t mat­ter if you don’t know what it is sup­posed to be,” says Teacher C. How­ever, adds Teacher A, “Don’t give your chil­dren false praise – they’re more in­sight­ful than you think.”

“It’s okay for your child to know that you don’t ex­pect per­fec­tion. Sin­cerely com­pli­ment­ing his ef­forts but not falsely prais­ing the re­sults will help your child un­der­stand that there will al­ways be ar­eas where he can im­prove,” Zandile says.

DON’T TALK ABOUT YOUR CHILD IN HIS PRES­ENCE

“If some­thing is of con­cern to you, make an ap­point­ment to dis­cuss it with the teacher at a con­ve­nient time,” ad­vises Teacher A. “Then,” adds Zandile, “if it’s ap­pro­pri­ate, you can give the nec­es­sary feed­back to your child.”

DON’T COM­PARE YOUR CHILD TO THE OTHER KIDS

“Don’t ask where your child is sit­u­ated aca­dem­i­cally in the class. You have no idea how the other chil­dren per­form, so what does it mat­ter?” says Teacher B.

“The worst thing a par­ent can do to a child is im­ply that he’s not good enough,” says Zandile. “Al­low him the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop as an in­di­vid­ual, and ap­pre­ci­ate and treat him as a unique per­son.”

And fi­nally, sen­ti­ments ex­pressed by all the teach­ers in some form or another: be in­volved, be on time, and take part in school events – your child loves that!

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