Life & Style | Parenting

The four big influences on our children

Get to know how to deal with the people who help shape your children’s character

  • By Kristen and Mark Bishop, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 21:30 July 28, 2012
  • Gulf News

Teachers

Children never forget. Great educators can prevent a child from being emotionally dependent and motivate that child to achieve and thrive. Once children reach school age, they start spending more time with their teachers than with their parents.

By giving children the knowledge and skills they need to succeed as adults, by urging them to pursue their dreams, and by impressing on them the joy that comes from a lifetime of learning, teachers can be almost limitless in their capacity to touch lives. Considering that on average teachers affect 3,000 children over the course of their careers, the ripple effect of even a single teacher’s impact can be astounding.

Teachers should always be a positive role model. We can do this by taking note of the following written by Dr Robyn J.A. Silverman:

1 Be the role model: Little eyes are watching and little ears are listening. When it comes to being a role model, you must be aware that the choices you make don’t only impact you but also the children who regard you as their superhero. Some day, they will be in the same predicament and think to themselves, “What did he/she do when he/she was in the same situation?” When you are a role model, it’s not enough to tell your charges the best choices to make. You must put them into action yourself.

2 Think out loud: When you have a tough choice to make, allow the children to see how you work through the problem, weigh the pros and cons, and come to a decision. The process of making a good decision is a skill. A good role model will not only show a child which decision is best, but also how they come to that conclusion. That way, the child will be able to follow that reasoning when they are in a similar situation.

3 Apologise and admit mistakes: Nobody’s perfect. When you make a bad choice, let those who are watching and learning from you know that you made a mistake and how you plan to correct it. This will help them to understand that (a) everyone makes mistakes; (b) it’s not the end of the world; (c) you can make it right; and (d) you should take responsibility for it as soon as possible. By apologising, admitting your mistake, and repairing the damage, you will be demonstrating an important yet often overlooked part of being a role model.

4 Follow through: We all want children to stick with their commitments and follow through with their promises. However, as adults, we get busy, distracted, and sometimes, a bit lazy. To be a good role model, we must demonstrate stick-to-itiveness and self-discipline. That means; (a) be on time; (b) finish what you started; (c) don’t quit; (d) keep your word; and (e) don’t back off when things get challenging. When role models follow through with their goals, it teaches children that it can be done and helps them adopt an “if he/she can do it, so can I” attitude.

5 Show respect: You may be driven, successful, and smart but whether you choose to show respect or not speaks volumes about the type of attitude it takes to make it in life. We always tell children to “treat others the way we want to be treated” and yet may not subscribe to that axiom ourselves. Do you step on others to get ahead? Do you take your spouse, friends, staff or colleagues for granted? Do you show gratitude or attitude when others help you? In this case, it’s often the little things you do that make the biggest difference in how children perceive how to succeed in business and relationships.

6 Be well-rounded: While we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin, it’s important to show children that we can be more than just one thing. Great role models aren’t just “teachers.” They’re people who show curiosities and have varied interests. They’re great learners and challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones. You may be a teacher who’s also a student of martial arts or yoga, a great chef, a good sportsman, a father and a treasured friend. You may be a coach who’s a gifted dancer, a solid rock climber, a celebrated singer, a mother and a curious photographer. When children see that their role models can be many things, they will learn that they don’t need to pigeon-hole themselves in order to be successful.

7 Demonstrate confidence in yourself: Whatever you choose to do with your life, be proud of the person you’ve become and continue to become. It may have been a long road and you may have experienced bumps along the way, but it’s the responsibility of a role model to commemorate the lessons learned, the strength we’ve amassed, and the character they’ve developed. We can always get better, however, in order for children to celebrate who they are, their role models need to show that confidence doesn’t start “5 pounds from now,” “2 more wins on top of this one,” or “1 more possession than I have today.” We must continue to strive while being happy with how far we’ve come at the same time. While it may seem like a great deal of pressure to be a positive role model; nobody is expecting you to be superhuman. You can only do your best. If you mess up today, you can always refer back to tip #4 and try again.

Parents

Since education begins at home and parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers, supporting and educating parents is a logical strategy. Parents who are involved in their children’s early care and education have children who are better prepared for school.

Although a parent’s role in their children’s learning evolves as kids grow, one thing remains constant: we are our children’s learning models. Our attitudes about education can inspire theirs and show them how to take charge of their own educational journey.

When a young child begins formal school, the parent’s job is to show him how school can extend the learning you began together at home, and how exciting and meaningful this learning can be.

As pre-schoolers grow into school age children, parents become their children’s learning coaches. Through guidance and reminders, parents help their kids organise their time and support their desires to learn new things in and out of school.

1 Pay attention to what your child loves.

2 Find out what your child likes and dislikes, allow them to talk to you or show you things that interest or excite them.

3 Make time for these conversations especially when your child initiates this dialogue. If you constantly say “Not now, I’m busy” your child will learn that they do not have anything of value or worth to contribute to the family unit which can transfer into the school setting also.

4 Being a good listener to your child is essential in building social skills for your child, they will learn to have balanced two-way conversations and be able to pick up on language changes and body language that provide essential social cues.

5 Help your child take charge of his learning. It is important that children grow up knowing the consequences of their choices, accepting them and altering their behaviour or course of action based on prior experience. By only instructing children and not allowing them to contribute to their learning you are preventing them from important learning experiences that will help them in the adult world.

6 Don’t over-schedule your child. While you may want to supplement school with outside activities, judge carefully how much you let or urge your child do. Kids need downtime as much as they may need to pursue extra-curricular activities. Do not make their commitments become a chore, moving from one activity to another can be detrimental to the child and put them off the sport or activity they previously enjoyed.

7 Learn something new yourself. Learning something new is a great way to model the learning process for your child. Take up a new language or craft, or read about an unfamiliar topic. Show your child what you are learning and how you may be struggling. You’ll gain a better understanding of what your child is going through and your child may learn study skills by watching you study. You might even establish a joint study time.

8 Let your child make his own mistakes. It’s hard not to correct a child’s homework, but most teachers ask you not to take over unless your child asks for your help or the teacher requests it. Teachers generally want to know what the child understands, not what the parent understands about the material.

Peers

1 The power of peer pressure peaks in early adolescence at the same time, unfortunately, that parental involvement in school declines. Peers can positively or negatively affect each other’s academic performance. Not surprisingly, more successful students have friends whose grades are high, who spent more time on homework, who had greater educational aspirations, and who devoted more time to extracurricular activities.

2 Another way peers can influence academic achievement has to do with the number of hours spent socialising. The amount of time your child spends with peer groups after school and at weekends directly impacts their academic success. Those who find a healthy balance between completing required school work and spending time with their social group will succeed in school whereas those who have an imbalance of time spent socialising vs. homework will show lower levels of achievement.

3 If your child is spending many hours after school each week on a sporting activity, this can impact negatively on their academic achievement unless a balance can be found that suits both the school requirements and the child’s potential within their chosen sporting activity. Whether a student will succeed or fail is more dependent on the structure within their lives and the importance placed on education goals rather than the school they attend.

4 It is important to remember that peer groups are also a positive part of your child’s development and should not only be viewed as a negative pressure. Peer groups are a normal, necessary and healthy part of adolescent development. As teenagers are struggling to develop a personal identity and become less dependent on parents, peer groups provide the security of a “safety net”.

5 Peer groups provide an opportunity for teenagers to interact with equals. Their friends give teenagers companionship, emotional support, and a sense of belonging.

6 Peer groups allow teens to question values, discuss problems, share information, and practise social skills. Teenagers learn that they aren’t alone in feeling scared and insecure, and others have problems too. All children want to be liked and to fit in with a group of like-minded friends.

The message for parents: Our job as parents is to ensure that our children are making healthy choices and are being true to themselves, not trying to be someone else to fit in with an expected behaviour or model. This sounds simple enough but when you add hormones into the mix this can be a source of frequent conflict. The important issue is to keep communication channels open. Know what your child’s friendship group is, where they socialise and set clear boundaries for appropriate levels of behaviour and expectations.

Environment

When students are using technology as a tool or a support for communicating with others, they are in an active role rather than the passive role of recipient of information transmitted by a teacher, textbook, or broadcast. The student is actively making choices about how to generate, obtain, manipulate, or display information. Technology use allows many more students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills than is typical in teacher-led lessons.

The teacher’s role changes as well. The teacher is no longer the centre of attention as the source of information, but rather plays the role of facilitator, setting project goals and providing guidelines and resources, moving from student to student or group to group, providing suggestions and support for student activity.

Many schools are moving towards a method of “flipping the classroom” where students learn the skills at home and then develop these in class rather than the teacher directing their learning from the front of the classroom. Student-led learning is one way in which teachers can motivate the whole class to achieve in ways that they are comfortable with and willing to share with the whole class.

An increasing number of top scientists and researchers are questioning the effects on children of spending excessive amounts of time using modern technology, particularly social networking websites and cell phone text messaging and their influence on the formation of basic skills of human interaction.

Whatever influences affect our children’s future, as parents it is our responsibility to support and encourage learning.
 

Mark Bishop is head, physical education, while Kristen Bishop is head, technology, Greenfield Community School, Dubai

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