Educators reveal the parenting behavior they steer clear of in their own lives.
Parents who are also teachers have a unique viewpoint when it comes to raising kids. The years spent in the classroom, working with students, while also interacting with their parents, help inform the choices they make with their own families.
We asked teachers what they personally avoid doing with their own kids based on what they’ve witnessed or experienced on the job. Here’s what they told us:
1. I won’t be a helicopter parent.
Katie Niemczyk, a former high school English teacher in Minnesota, called helicopter parenting — when caregivers are overly protective and overly involved in their kids’ lives — one of the most stressful things teachers deal with. Not to mention it’s detrimental to kids in the long run, too, she told HuffPost.
“Of course, when kids are little, they need more parental involvement, but the goal is for parents — and teachers — to release more and more responsibility to students as they get older so they are mastering important life skills like organization, time management and accountability,“ said Niemczyk, a mother of two currently working as a freelance curriculum developer.
“When I taught high school, I saw so many parents flat-out refuse to let their children struggle: They would constantly be contacting me directly to micromanage their child’s grade, swooping in to make excuses for their child’s poor choices, and even sometimes ‘helping’ their child with assignments to the point that the student was not actually learning anything,” she said.
“It’s difficult to watch your child make mistakes and deal with consequences, but it’s also necessary for them to be ready to leave the nest and succeed as young adults.”
2. I won’t make promises to my kids that I can’t keep.
Katie Brunelle is a mother of two who taught fifth grade in Maine for more than a decade. Seeing how excited students would get when their parents told them something was going to happen — like a trip or a visit with the parent they don’t live with full-time — and then seeing how hurt they’d be when mom or dad dropped the ball taught her an important lesson.
“I know that life happens, things out of our control, but I understood quickly, before I had kids of my own, that my students knew the difference between a parent following through and an unexpected scenario putting a damper on things,” Brunelle, co-host of the “Redefining the Rainbow” podcast, told HuffPost.
It’s difficult to watch your child make mistakes and deal with consequences, but it’s also necessary for them to be ready to leave the nest and succeed as young adults.Katie Niemczyk, former high school English teacher
A kid being disappointed that plans fell through is one thing. A kid who’s resigned themself to the fact their parent just can’t get it together is another, she said.
“It created a palpable distrust in the parents and their promises. I swore to keep the promises I made to my children, even if it meant not making promises because I wasn’t sure I could follow through.”
3. I won’t automatically blame the teacher without having a conversation with them first.
There were many times Niemczyk felt a parent or guardian made a snap judgment about her teaching decisions “without taking the time to get my perspective,” she said.
Sometimes these judgments from parents came in the form of curt emails “demanding to know why a student’s grade was low,” she said. Other times, “it was an accusatory question in a parent-teacher conference along the lines of, ‘Why are you teaching my kid that?’” Niemczyk said.
And then there were situations in which the parent went straight to the principal with a complaint “that could easily have been resolved through direct communication with me,” she said.
“The vast majority of the time, once a parent or guardian actually spoke to me, they realized they might not be getting the whole story at home and, most importantly, that I wasn’t a monster out to get their kid!” she said.
Before jumping to conclusions, take the time to actually have a conversation with your kid's teacher, Niemczyk advised.
Similarly, Tyrelle Lee — a middle school social studies teacher in North Carolina — told HuffPost he refuses to be the type of parent who always sides with his kid, no matter what, and assumes the teacher must be at fault.
“Due to the fact that kids tend to fabricate stories, I have to trust the teacher as the professional that they are doing what’s best for my kid,” he said.
It’s worth going into any problem at school with the assumption that the educator has positive intentions, Niemczyk said. But remember that they’re just people, too, fallible like the rest of us.
“Some teachers are mean or unfair, and all of them have bad days and make mistakes just like anyone else,” Niemczyk said. “But get all the information before jumping to conclusions and attacking someone who is probably doing their best in one of the most stressful professions there is. As a former colleague of mine likes to say, ‘Teachers are doing the Lord’s work for shepherd’s pay.’ Cut them some slack whenever you can. Thank them for their hard work.”
4. I won’t believe they’re incapable of succeeding academically.
José Vilson, the executive director and co-founder of EduColor, is a former New York City middle school math teacher. As a father, he would never sell his child short when it comes to their academic potential, he told HuffPost. Just because a parent had a hard time with a particular subject or didn’t do well in school in general doesn’t mean the same outcome is inevitable for their child.
“Too much of what happens with students in under-resourced environments is that we say things like, ‘Well, they’re just not a math person’ or ‘We weren’t any good at this so we don’t expect you to be either,’ rather than, ‘How can we get it so you can do better than we did?’ or something like that,” Vilson said.
Parents: Don't underestimate your child's academic potential.
5. I won’t skip a family trip ― even if it means missing a few days of school.
Brunelle would not miss an opportunity to take her kids on vacation just because they’d be out of school for a couple of days, she said.
When she was teaching, “parents and students would be so worried about making up work or missing too much by being out for a few days,” she said. “I would always tell them that anything that happens during those days can be explained afterward. The experience and time with family is much more important.”