As a secondary educator, I never cease to be amazed by how little parents actually know about their children. One parent actually showed up at the wrong school for a parent/teacher conference. He did not know what school his child attended. Equally horrifying are the conversations that I overhear in the hallways and classrooms of my high school. If parents only knew what their children were plotting, planning, and scheming to do, and what lengths they would go to in order to execute these plans, they would lock them in their rooms until they were at least voting age. I believe that I have a unique perspective of your children because I get to see who they are when they are interacting with their peers in their natural habitat, away from your guidance. Forget the need-to-know status. There should be areas that are non negotiable between you and your child.
1. Know your child’s schedule. There should never be any time of day (or night) when you don’t know where your child is. First of all, you should sanction your child’s whereabouts. That means that you have granted authoritative permission. There is absolutely nowhere that they need to be that you do not need to know about. And if they get there and plans change, they need to be granted permission, again, by you.
2. Know your child’s teachers. Email them during the first few weeks of school. Attend Open House. Call them. This shows the teacher that you care, that you are involved, and proactive. As a teacher, I always make a note of the parents who initiate contact with me. This informs me that there is a support system at home, and some teachers make it a point to pay a little more attention to these students.
3. Know your child’s grades. There is no reason for you to ever be surprised by your child’s grades. Every school system that I am aware of allows parents electronic access to their children’s grades. Most secondary teachers on traditional period schedules may have upwards of 100 students each year. On a block schedule, a teacher can have more than 200 students each year. And though your child may be your number one priority, your child’s teacher is dealing with 100 number one priorities. It is unreasonable to expect to be notified if your child is performing poorly, and the onus is yours to contact the teacher if you have a concern.
4. Know your child’s friends. This may seem daunting at first, but you need to make an effort to get to know your child’s closest friends. It’s impossible to know everyone that your child is spending time with, but it is imperative that you know your child’s biggest influencers. Some experts believe that we are the sum average of the people with whom we spend the most time. You need to know the other parts of your child’s equation.
5. Know your child’s passwords. You should have complete access to all of your child’s social network passwords. You may not ever use them, but your child needs to know that you could if you wanted to. Sometimes just the threat of a parent finding out what they are doing online is enough to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Some children may complain about their so-called “privacy,” but most kids won’t mind checking in with their parents or sharing passwords… unless they have something to hide. Being involved in your child’s life does not mean that you are snooping. It shows that you are involved and responsible. No parent ever looks back and wishes that they were less involved in their children’s lives.
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