Parent Goals for the Year

By: Neil Mufson
At the start of a new school year, we often focus on what goals our children should set as they contemplate new opportunities, past challenges, and the clean slate before them. But what goals should we as parents establish and monitor for ourselves given the fresh chance we have to guide our child’s new course?

Here are some goals I urge parents of elementary and middle school age children to consider to help their children make the most of their year:
  • Read what we send home in order to be optimally informed. Take advantage of the wealth of information your child’s teacher and the school send out about what is going on and what is coming up. Children notice when their parent knows what’s happening, and it reinforces that school and they are important.
  • Be consistently on time every morning. While everyone is late once in a while, being consistently late gets your child’s day off to a rushed, incomplete, disorienting, and unfair start. Since school begins at 8:15, try to arrive by 8:05 so your child can get down to his or her classroom and settle in with peers and teachers before everything starts.
  • Commit to having a sit-down dinner as a family the majority of nights each week. In addition to conveying to your child that he or she is a priority, it also conveys that family time is important. Studies show that families that eat dinner together regularly and interact with one another during that time, yield emotionally much healthier children than those that don’t. Research also confirms that drug and alcohol use, as well as delayed sexual activity, is much lower amongst children whose families regularly eat together. In addition, parents can become more adept at reading signs of positive growth and potential concern.
  • Ask open-ended, positive questions about school and your child’s day. Focus on themes or what is unique rather than seeking micro-assessments. Ask questions along line of “What was the best thing that happened at school today?” or “What did you do at recess today?” or “Tell me about the topic you are working on in science.” Questions like, “Did Ralph bother you on the playground again?” or “How was that Spanish test?” can too easily convey parental expectation or anxiety. Or it can come across as what some psychologists call “interviewing for pain.”
  • Communicate with your child’s teacher early on when you have a concern. As you know, balance is the key: don’t overreact immediately, but don’t let things fester, either. Remember the wisdom of the teacher who says, “I won’t automatically believe as the whole truth everything your child says about what goes on at home, just as you should not automatically believe everything your child says goes on at school.”
  • When you have a concern about what is going on in the classroom or at school, start by communicating with your child’s teacher. She or he is in the best position to know what is truly going on and to immediately make positive changes.
  • Limit to two the number of structured, outside of school activities that your child is scheduled for each week. Kids need lots of downtime to develop positive problem-solving, social, and creative thinking skills. Make sure they get outside. It’s actually desirable for kids to have to figure out for themselves how to avoid being bored.
  • Model limiting screen time and not interrupting family times (such as dinner, special events, and outings) with monitoring your own electronics. Expect the same of your children. It is all too easy for kids to get the message from parents that their electronic messages are more important than they are.
  • Model and insist on the regular reading of books. Reading builds vocabulary, stretches children’s imaginations and horizons, improves one’s writing, fosters curiosity, and nurtures higher order thinking skills. It’s also a great thing to do together at every age, and it can spark wonderful conversations.
  • Make sure your children know you emphasize effort, being a good person, and caring about others above their academic or athletic performance. It is good to have high expectations for your child, and we all want our children to achieve. However, research has found that consistent effort and doing the right thing are what lead to a long term achievement habit and healthy emotional growth.
  • Maintain perspective. Not everything can — or even should — be perfect. Kids need to experience some challenges, failures, social difficulties, and unfairness so that they know how handle these inevitable parts of life in the future. We inadvertently do them no favor if we smooth the way all the time.
Being a parent is amongst the toughest, most satisfying, and most important of human undertakings. Mindfully using the “luxury” that the start of a new school year provides is an opportunity that is too good to pass up.

Recent News

List of 5 news stories.

News Archive
© 2017 The Country School. All Rights Reserved.
The Country School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, age, gender, nationality, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation in the administration of its educational, admission, and employment policies, or its financial aid, athletic, and other school administered programs.
716 Goldsborough Street, Easton, MD 21601 • 410.822.1935