Tips for Parents: 10 Things Teachers Wish Parents Would Do at Home

Parent Tips: How Can I Help my Child Succeed?

Becoming a parent for the first time has also given me a new perspective on what education should be and as my kids are almost old enough for school, I often think about my kids own success in their education.

As parents or caregivers we are entrusted with the power and ability to:

  • Show our kids unconditional love and acceptance
  • Teach our kids how to be critical thinkers
  • Prepare our kids for the real world
  • Show our kids how to work hard (and hope that they can work hard)
  • Teach our kids how to persevere through hard times

Tips for Parents: How Can I Help my Child at Home?

As a seasoned elementary teacher, I’ve been to my fair share of parent-teacher conferences. The question that always comes up is “how can I help my child at home?”. It warms my heart when I get asked this question because it means that parents today are becoming more involved in their child’s education. There are a number of things that parents should be doing with their children on a daily basis to reinforce the learning process.

Helping your child at home by reinforcing what they are learning at school is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. Schools today are constantly fighting against (or trying to engage in) our current culture of constant multi-media screen time. You’ve probably noticed that public school classrooms today are generally overcrowded and lack resources. In fact, there’s a long-term teacher strike where I live that’s happening right now as I write this article. So let’s empower our kids to succeed in school (and in life) and let’s allow our kids to learn lifelong skills at school as well as at home.

1. Spend Time Reading at Home with Your Child

Everyone knows that reading to your child and reading with your child is beneficial for their learning. How does reading help children? Even introducing your younger kids to reading increases your child’s literacy development, social-emotional development and your child’s overall academic success when they’re old enough for school or essay writing service. But only one in three parents (one third) are actually daily reading bedtime stories to their kids.

“In an international study involving 15-year-olds from 14 developed countries, students whose parents read books with them regularly during the first year of primary school scored an average of 14 points higher on a comprehensive reading assessment.”

Most parents I talk to understand the importance of reading at home, but I wish parents knew that quantity isn’t better than quality. I’m referring to reading comprehension here. No matter how many books your child reads, it doesn’t mean a thing if your child doesn’t truly understand WHAT he/she is reading. Also, if your child really understands what he/she is reading, theoretically, your child’s reading expression should follow suit. Reading expression, in some cases, has to be taught and reinforcing this skill at home is one of the best ways to do it. Think about it, your child is probably in a class of 15 to 30 other students. How many opportunities will your child get to actually read aloud in such a large group of students?

So, what are some ways you can improve your child’s reading and reading comprehension at home?

  • Reading to your child every night, before bed. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to be there for your child’s bedtime routine, work in reading during another part of your child’s day. Reading is especially important for children when they’re not in school: during summer breaks, winter breaks or even during teacher strikes.
  • Take turns reading aloud, when your child is able to successfully decode. This way you can model good reading expression.
  • Ask your child questions about what he/she is reading. Not just surface or “quick” questions, but deep thinking questions. Adrian Gear, author of Reading Power says that “comprehension is not something you do with your students but something you teach to your students.” Of course, she’s talking to teachers here but the same idea could be applied to parents or caregivers. We should be the ones modelling good reading strategies to our kids.
  • Find out what your child is most interested in and find books and stories that match your child’s interest. YOU have the power to empower your child to get genuinely excited about what he/she is reading.

2. Tips for Parents: Eat Meals Together and Have Real Discussions

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve talked with parents about the importance of having real discussions with their kids at home. At school and in the real world, kids need to take the knowledge they have in their brains and transpose this knowledge into spontaneous discussions. Learning to discuss is not something that can be learned overnight, it has to be modelled and taught.

It’s important for families to eat meals together because this is one of the rare times in our busy day where we get to have uninterrupted conversations with our kids. A study in 2017 from Welch’s Kitchen Table Report, shows that more than one third (34%) of (American)families eat together 7 nights a week (on average). Studies show that conversations that happen at dinnertime are more of a vocabulary booster than reading and kids develop the idea of resilience by listening to our dinnertime stories.

So what are some ways you can have real discussions with your kids at mealtime?

  • Ask your kids open-ended questions at the dinner table. What are the qualities that make a good friend? Who is the meanest kid you know? Why?
  • Ask your kids daily at mealtime, “what is one thing you learned today?”
  • Talk about the books your kids are reading and remember to ask them hard (deep) questions.
  • Discuss as a family about the world and current events-how do current world events relate to us?
  • Talk to your kids about what it was like for you growing up and some challenges you had to face. Tell funny stories, sad stories, embarrassing stories or any type of story.

3. Parent Tips: Teach your Child How to be Responsible and Capable

Homework is an important part of a student’s learning. It teaches responsibility and diligence. Part of your job as a parent, whether you like it or not, is to help navigate your child through their homework and to teach your child time management skills. Now, just because you teach them, doesn’t mean they’ve mastered the art of time management. You’ll realize quickly that there is only so much you can do as a parent. It’s ultimately up to your child to follow through will completion of assignments and deadlines. I love it when parents don’t bend over backwards to make sure their child finishes and hands in assignments. Parents, please let your child learn the hard way because rushing into school at recess to drop off the assignment that was due in the morning is going to teach your child NOTHING about taking responsibility for their actions. This doesn’t mean you can’t remind and encourage your child to finish their homework, just allow your kids to do their job of a student.

Also, please don’t give your child all the answers to their homework questions/assignments. Allow your kids to struggle through the process, pointing them in the right direction. Not only is it good educational practice to allow kids to figure things out on their own, it’s also very satisfying for the child to accomplish something on their own, knowing that they are capable.

4. Put Your Kids to Bed Early

By far, one of the most aggravating things that teachers have to deal with are students who lack focus. It’s easy to pinpoint the students in our class who lack focus because often those are the students who haven’t got a proper nights’ rest.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, children aged five to 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep. More often than not, at least a few of my students come to me in the morning lacking focus, yawning and barely holding their heads up. It’s important to establish a predictable bedtime routine and to put your child to bed at a decent hour. Knowing that kids need 10-11 hours of sleep each night, if they are going to bed late every night and getting woken up in the morning for school, there is a sleep deficit happing.

I wish that all parents would allow their kids to have a proper amount of time to get ready in the morning (without rushing), and especially enough time to eat a proper breakfast.


5. Don’t Over-Schedule Your Kids

One of my pet peeves is when my students don’t finish their homework assignment because they were too busy finishing their Math/German/Reading extra curricular program homework. A lot of my students have extra curricular programs/classes/sports/music going on almost every night of the week. While some educational enrichment is good, let’s not overwhelm our kids’ schedules. School keeps kids fairy busy already.

Here are some ways you can simplify your schedule:

  • Limit extra curricular activities to 1 or 2 per week, making sure that you have at least 3 school nights a week are free and available.
  • Make time every week for your kids to have free play, outside if possible.
  • When making decisions about extra curricular stuff, get feedback from your kids about what they’re interested in.

6. Allow your Kids to Play

We’re living in an age where outside play is constantly being threatened by media/screen time. A survey by Nickelodeon reports that kids born after 2005 spend, on average, 35 hours a week watching TV. This is in addition to screen time (time spent with a laptop/tablet/game). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children only spend 1 to 2 hours in front of a screen each day (TV and other media). In an average week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own. (Children & Nature Network, 2008).

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play promotes healthy child development. Studies have shown that allowing your kids to play outside boosts classroom performance, enhances imagination and attention, promotes stewardship of nature, not to mention the physical benefits of exercising outside.

Here are some suggestions for how we as parents can promote the idea of play with our teens:

  • Buy research papers or a trampoline and get your kids to jump on it every day. Use your neighbour’s trampoline if you don’t have one (make sure you ask them first!).
  • Have dedicated “outside time” on the schedule, whether it’s raining or sunny.
  • Go for weekly family bike rides and explore different parts of your community.
  • Encourage your kids to have friends over and get them to play outside together.

7. Make Sure Your Child has a Healthy Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner (and Snacks)

I already discussed the idea that some kids lack focus in the classroom, and often we, as parents, are to blame. Another factor that affects your child’s ability to focus and process is nutrition. There’s a really simple solution: feed your children a good healthy breakfast. Their focus will drastically improve.

8. Teach Your Kids How to Work Hard

Children need to learn the value of hard work because working hard for what you want is what makes the world go around. Parents, we are role models for our kids and we show our kids every day just how hard we work. Let’s show our kids that it takes effort to get what you want in life. Here are some ways we can encourage hard work around the house:

  • Start chores with your kids when they’re young.
  • Help your kids set goals for themselves.
  • Volunteer as a family.

9. Let Your Kids Take the Lead

Kids are used to being told what to do and when to do it. It’s a good exercise to occasionally allow your child to be the one who calls the shots. Ask your kids what they want to do and do it with them. You could:

  • Build a fort with your child and play in it.
  • Play your child’s favourite game with them: tag, statues, monopoly, Candyland ect.
  • Let your child pick the dinner menu.
  • Have a tea party with your kids.

10. Start Educating your Kids When They’re Young

Reading to your young children even 30 minutes a day from birth will instil learning. When your child is old enough for kindergarten, he/she will be more literate and naturally open to learning new concepts than those students who were never read to daily from birth.

Here are some ways you can start educating your kids when they’re young:

  • Read to your kids every night from birth.
  • Expose your young kids to music.
  • Introduce science to your kids when they’re young.

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