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Supporting Parents

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Supporting Parents An Article offering thoughts, ideas and resources for supporting parents.

This is a Free Sample Resource
Categories: Article, Professional Development, Other Subject, Early Years, Infant, Junior

Tags: Parents Childhood
A Good Enough Parent

The best advice I ever found on bringing up my two fantastic children came from Bruno Bettelhiem's book, "A Good Enough Parent". This inspiring and somewhat controversial psychologist said, "...to be a good enough parent one must be able to feel secure in one's parenthood, and one's relation to one's child...the security of the parent about being a parent will eventually become the source of the child's feeling secure about himself". Bettelhiem argued that parents should not live totally by the word of experts, theorists and psychologists. Instead they should trust themselves to make the right parenting choices. Becoming a good enough parent is about becoming more yourself; it's about accepting mistakes as chances to learn and successes as reasons to celebrate; and it's as much about discovering who you are as it is about getting to know your child.

Ask the Experts

There are some fine theories and some excellent ideas on the parenting book shelves and on TV Super Nanny shows. But it's only when the child-rearing experts quieten down a little that the parent's voice can be heard. And this voice is a very important sound when it comes to the child's learning. When teachers accept that parents are the true experts in the subject of 'my child' then all sorts of possibilities open up, not least the speed with which they can get to know their pupils and begin to teach them effectively.

The Parent-Teacher & The Teacher-Parent

Teachers legally assume the role in loco parentis - in the place of the parent. Officially it doesn't work the other way round (in loco doctoris) but to varying degrees parents and carers do help their children learn. We intuitively sing to our infants; we take our kids swimming; parents help with homework, buy learning resources, support schools and by-and-large want the best for their offspring. Of course some parents and carers are unwilling or unable to do this but an effective working relationship with parents is to be valued and sought.

Parents at School

One blocker to fostering teacher-parent relationships can be a parent's own experience of school. If these memories are less than perfect then showing up at parents' evening can be a step too far. When I run parents' workshops the attendance always reflects two things: parents' attitudes to school and the extent to which the school has been successful in getting them over their fears and through the door. I once heard of a school with a curious policy for parental engagement. It consisted of a small picket fence and a padlocked gate that opened briefly at the start and end of each day. The more athletic parents had no difficulty leaping over, but the barrier was of course symbolic rather than pragmatic. It said, "Stay away from the classrooms; have 'em back when we're done, and by the way spellings this Friday". Formal requests to see teachers were encouraged and valued, however we all know that a quick and quiet word at the classroom door can nip big problems in the bud. Take a leaf out of my friend Caroline's book. As head teacher in her new school, one of her top priorities is to have a cup of tea with every parent within the first term. The payback is immense.

Wild, Wholesome, Rounded Kids

Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks write books bursting with WOW! ideas. They capture a rich vision for childhood and offer numerous practical ways to get kids outside, engaged with learning, making stuff and having fun. If I set up my own school, their books will inspire the curriculum. They both share a love of exploring wild places, and a belief in giving children and young people the freedom to enjoy outdoor adventures. Jo started her career in educational psychology before becoming a commercial photographer and Fiona has experience in environmental education, but it is the shared adventures with families and friends that inspired them to develop a series of books packed with ideas for games, toys and crafts encouraging more children, young people and families to venture outside. Together they have written Nature’s Playground, Go Wild, Make it Wild and  Run Wild where they rise to the challenge of enticing children and teenagers of all ages off the sofa, away from their virtual worlds and into the great outdoors. Make a cricket bat, a clay monster, an ice lantern or do some wild camping. Encourage them to explore their limits, take measured risks and learn new skills. They believe experiences such as these can help all young people become better equipped to make their own way in the world, to become healthier, well-balanced adults with a greater respect for the natural world.

Speak the Same Language

My friend Tom Hoerr is a world-class collegial school leader. His success rests in part on highly effective relationships with parents. By regular email he not only informs parents of important school dates and events, but includes and involves them in the school's unique pedagogy around Multiple Intelligences and collegiality. Parents, teachers and pupils therefore have a common language of learning and get a real head-start when it comes to parents' evenings, discussing learning options or tackling a problem in the classroom. Tom tells me that using MI also helps bring parents into the fold because it enables them to work with the school in capitalizing on their child’s strengths. We’ve begun using an MI Profile this year – it will be completed by parents, students, and teachers – as a tool to communicate about growth. New City School


Related Resources:

Get Your Child Thinking

MI Parenting

MI Parents' Meeting

MI Parents' Reflection Profile

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