Parents need to be realistic about their children’s school-related strengths and weaknesses in order to help make their school experiences as effective as possible. Of course we can complain about how last year’s teacher was able to reach our child and this year it just isn’t the same, but to what end? We need to be brutally honest with ourselves about our children’s abilities if we are to be able to be of help.
We adults all have our foibles, weaknesses and personality quirks. We learn how to navigate our social and professional lives in spite of our inabilities and insecurities because we learn to capitalize on our strengths if we want to be successful.
Of course our children are different. Did you ever hear of an “average” Jewish child? Our children aren’t average chas ve’shalom! All our children are exceptionally bright; their poor grades are a reflection of poor teachers, a poor school system or a bad grading method. Our children don’t get into trouble or do the wrong thing unless they are being misled by that terrible bully in their class. Of course our children are unfailingly polite and respectful. There are almost as many variations on this theme as there are parents. Too many of us don’t want to recognize our children’s weaknesses.
We should try and help a child develop a healthy self-esteem and confidence so he could navigate the school system and its expectations successfully. A parent should know at what kind of subject each child does well (and realistically, how well); what comes more easily and what takes more effort, and yes, which subject is really difficult for their child. We can help our children cope with difficulty when we know where they need to be encouraged, where they need to put some extra effort into a subject or project. Again, that presupposes realistic knowledge of deficiencies. If we know which foot hurts we can know which to massage.
Which teacher has not had to explain to an incredulous parent that his child was not really an A+ student and that he was really doing as well as could be expected? When we are realistic we make realistic demands, and more importantly, offer proper and effective encouragement. We can give meaningful praise when we are aware of who our children are; praise that offers encouragement and builds self-esteem. “You studied well for that test and will remember the material.” “I like the way your work is organized and clear,” etc. The student will remember that while he may not be getting prefect scores, his effort and his special strengths are appreciated.
Helping a child develop personal interests and hobbies is part of the educational process. When a parent becomes aware of a particular interest it is a good idea to help the child channel it in a positive direction. If your child has an artistic flair and enjoys drawing and using colors – get him some drawing pencils and a drawing tablet. The best way to kill the interest is to say, “I got you colored pencils and drawing paper and you’re playing with your construction set? What did I waste my money for?”
Your job is to facilitate, not to start badgering.