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Through their daily actions, parents are teaching their children about life
In the modern world there are many pressures and competing roles for parents. These roles include being partners, parents, employees/managers or business owners, members of communities and extended families. The need to balance outside life and home life can be quite difficult.
A parent’s primary focus is on the care and protection of their children. The way in which parents care for and protect their children is exemplary of living and learning. Parents are, in the way they parent, educating their children about life.
This is important, as parents should always remember that schools and educators have a somewhat limited role in educating children. By far, the biggest impact on children comes from the way that parents approach their parenting.
Parents should consider all of the following as important areas for role modelling and setting standards for children: routine, organisation, consistency, perspective, growth and self-discipline.
All children benefit from a sense of order and predictability. Routine helps achieve this. Routine is necessary for children to know what to expect will happen. Routine can be achieved through judicious use of calendars and diary planners. For some children it is very important to use visual cues on calendars to prompt an understanding of what is going to happen and in what order.
Routine helps to build learning structures for practice and makes for healthy habit formation. Routine can also help with transitioning between activities. If children can ‘see’ what to expect next then this can assist in overcoming fixated behaviours.
Organisation means that there is order coming from parents as the first educators. Organisation means that books and clothes are ready, and that the timing between things is such that everything is smooth rather than rushed.
Organisation takes planning and forethought – a commodity based on time. Parents must be excellent managers of time and excellent planners. Stress and forgetfulness hamper children’s learning, and well-organised parents will help children to be calmer and more adaptable to learning.
Predictability creates certainty and a sense of what will happen. Consistency helps in ensuring that there is predictability. If parents behave so that there is consistency in how they approach issues, then children are likely to be emotionally settled and to respect both parents. Inconsistency between parents will tend to have children favour one parent for some things and the other parent for other things. This playing off of parents against each other undermines each parent’s credibility.
Consistency alone creates predictability, but consistency is not enough. After all, if a parent is consistently stressed or always saying ‘no’ to a child then this does not lead to academic resilience in children as learners.
Consistency must be tempered with insight and the ability to self-reflect. Understanding the impact of parental behaviour on children is important for parents to understand in their roles as first educators of their children.
Parents are always called on to be ‘wise’, display understanding, and have answers, even if at times they feel a bit lost about issues facing their child or children.
Perspective means knowing when to be still and let something go, and knowing when to act. Sometimes parents tend to overreact to little things and not attend to things that mean a lot to a child.
Being able to role-model growth is among the most important elements of being a parent. Flexibility and adaptability when faced with changing circumstances will demonstrate growth.
Included in growth is a capacity to see what does not work when parenting and making adjustments in the search for successes. If parents are faced with repeated negative behaviours, and their approach to solving these behaviours makes little to no change, then an alternative if required. The alternative will require growth and can be confronting. Parents who can adapt and change in response to failure will role model growth.
Growth can also be role modelled when parents actively seek further learning despite it being difficult because they have little time and conflicting responsibilities. Parents may undertake a formal course at university, improve their educational qualification relevant to work or simply study something they seek to know.
Self-discipline is evidenced when parents do what they say they will do even though it requires sacrifice and is difficult. This type of approach to parenting means that parents will make time for their children because children matter most.
Parents setting personal goals, such as engaging in exercise three or four times per week, may seem out of reach. When parents set goals, they role model that a focus on achievement can create beneficial change. Setting goals helps children to see that having an external prompt for achievement can drive behaviours that are productive and focus energy. This is a very important quality for children to be exposed to.
Parents advertently or inadvertently are the foremost educators of their children. The role carries significant responsibilities, which if met should help both the parents and their children grow.