Helping, Not Hovering, to Get Kids Ready for School

Posted on July 29, 2010. Filed under: people | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Newswise — Most parents want to support and nurture their child’s education without being labeled as overly involved “helicopter” moms and dads. Advocating for your student without trying to protect them from every negative consequence is not easy to do, said Arthur Hochman, Butler University associate professor of elementary education. “Others are so ready to judge us, and we are so ready to judge ourselves as parents.”

Hochman suggests ways in which parents can foster children’s self-reliance and help them get ready for a great school year.

• Demonstrate your own “readiness” to learn and take risks. “If we, as parents, are living vital and productive lives, we approach new ideas, people and experiences with openness and positivity,” Hochman said. “We see possibilities; we forgive ourselves for falling short. And we share this with our children in a natural way that doesn’t feel like a lecture every time.”

• See if your child’s passion can be integrated into schooling. Tell your child’s teacher that your daughter loves to draw, needs to move, is fascinated by bugs, always has a book nearby or lives well inside her imagination.

• Help kids feel relaxed and comfortable about school. “Sometimes when we over-prepare our children, we create a feeling of heightened worry and anticipation,” Hochman said. Think about and discuss with your child what needs to be done to be ready for the start of school. In order to feel refreshed for the new year, enjoy some fun family get-away time before school begins.

• Remember that readiness for learning is individual. Some children love school and take to it naturally. If that’s not the case for your child, give him or her plenty of opportunities to tell you their concerns and challenges. Prompt them to come up with solutions.

If you want to discuss an issue with your child’s classroom teacher, do so with respect. “Listen and attempt to learn and understand what the teacher is trying to do before you judge it,” Hochman said. Keep the discussion upbeat by acknowledging the teacher and school’s good qualities, he added. “Teachers and administrators do not often hear about the great things they are doing.

“If I come in angry and confrontational, I am teaching my child that, when faced with a challenge, the proper response is anger.”

Sometimes a child loves going to school and is making educational progress, and yet a parent may be looking for something he or she feel is missing from the curriculum, Hochman said. “I would be careful about advocating in this case since I may be unintentionally chipping away at my child’s success.”

Ultimately, there is no “magic formula” for how much parents should push a child’s efforts and how much they should pull back, Hochman said. “It is different for each child.” Parents should guard against fostering overdependence. A child who always needs someone else pushing them to complete assignments and succeed is less likely to develop the internal focus and motivation necessary to function as an independent adult, he said.

A member of the Butler University College of Education faculty since 1989, Associate Professor Arthur Hochman specializes in Early/Middle Childhood Education, Curriculum Development and Construction Arts Integration. He has frequently served as a consultant, author and speaker on child development, teacher preparation standards and arts integration across curricula.

To find other Butler University experts, visit

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