Wednesday, November 3, 2010

5 Parenting Lessons I Gleaned from My Teaching Career

Before I was a professional mom, I was a teacher for about seven years. Nobody's going to make a Hallmark movie about me, but I did have a sense of mission about it. Here are a few things I learned in the classroom that translate to the family room.

1. Make plenty of deposits to cover the times when you have to make withdrawals.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey (as in Franklin Covey) writes about an emotional banking system. Praise and positive interactions are examples of emotional deposits. Criticism is an example of an emotional withdrawal. To keep a relationship warm and fuzzy, you’ve got to make more deposits than withdrawals. This means you’ve got to tell a child you love him or her, praise him or her for a job well done, and tell the child about the good qualities you observe in him or her. Doing this builds the relationship so that when you have to dole out some discipline, the relationship and the child’s self-esteem remain intact. If you’re short on deposits, you risk the child resenting you, believing him or herself to be “bad”, or, in the long run, giving up since there seems to be no pleasing you.

2. Create an environment that encourages success.

Students are more successful in a classroom that is structured, designed to be used by about thirty clumsy people, and in which they have access to the resources they need. Rather than trying to maintain a pristine home in which you have to say no constantly, you’ll keep the stress level in your house much lower if you make your home kid-friendly.

3. You have to let people be who they are.

Back in teacher school, I believed that my great love of reading would likewise ignite a passion for literature in every student I taught. Are you laughing? I watched a lot of teacher movies, and I was quite young. Reality is that not everyone is going to become a Shakespeare scholar or go to college, and that’s perfectly okay. Some people are good at music, some people are good at math, and some people are good at fixing stuff. We need all kinds of people to make society jive. So many parents want to create mini-me’s or mold their children into the people they wish they had become, but the child will be much, much happier if you help him or her to become him or herself.

4. You are the decisive factor.

A popular teacher quote goes like this:
"I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized."5. Routine, routine, routine.

People, kids included, want to know what to expect. Flexibility is its own virtue, but having a general idea of how the day is going to go makes everyone feel more comfortable. In my classroom it was bellwork, reading time, lesson, closer. Kids liked being able to anticipate what came next. Similarly, my babies are much happier (and much better nappers) when we follow our eating, playing, sleeping routine. And happy, napping babies make Mommy very happy.

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  1. I very much agree with these. I think teachers make great moms. We're flexible, creative, and organized.

    Isabella LOVES cars, trucks, and trains. As much as I want her to play with dolls and her tea set, I happily buy the boy toys as well.

  2. So great! My job is to provide professional development for educators in my district-I specialize in behavior and I love everything you said in this post!

  3. Lesley, your job sounds fantastic! I was the weirdo who loved inservices. ;-)

  4. Michelle, I think that's great. Isabella will thank you one day.


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