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
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.
“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!