Parents, kids can start off the school year with the right atti

August 27, 2004|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

I recently overheard a conversation between a mother and son in a local store's school supplies aisle.

"I hope you have a nice teacher this year," the mother said as she dropped a few things in her cart. "I hope she doesn't have a problem with the type of ruler I got for you."

She had a school supply list in her hand just like I did. We were buying the tools that our children will use this year in school.

Let's face it. Some teachers are more particular than others. Some are very specific about brands or types of items.

Once when I questioned an experienced teacher about why she requested a particular brand of crayons, she said she preferred that type because they don't break easily. She didn't want children to be sad because their crayons kept breaking.


Isn't that nice? Her preference wasn't just a whim. There was a reason behind it, and the children would benefit. The teacher wanted them to have the best tools available.

If someone gave me the option of writing a column on a manual typewriter or writing it on my personal computer, I wouldn't think twice about that choice.

So, now when teachers get specific, I just buy what is on the list.

I wanted to share this insight with the other mother, but something told me she wouldn't listen. Perhaps it was her tone of voice, or her attitude, that tipped me off to that.

I felt sorry for her son because he is starting the year on the wrong foot, a sense of distrust building before he even stepped into the classroom.

This mother may find that the teacher has a reason for requesting a certain type of ruler. Wouldn't it be something if the type of ruler she didn't buy was easier for her son to use?

As parents, it would be best if we found out the reasons for policies prior to complaining about them. Sometimes, it's just easier to complain than communicate.

Here we are at the start of another school year. If our children hear us constantly responding to situations in a negative way, that's what they'll start to do, too.

Good attitudes are learned behaviors, says Barbara Babbit Kaufman, author of the new book "Attitude."

Reactions reveal a lot about attitudes, Kaufman says.

"It takes a lot of energy to be in a good mood. It takes a lot of energy to be in a bad mood. Focus more of that energy on being in a good mood," says Kaufman, a mother of five.

Children are going to come home and complain about their teachers or coaches - especially if they've heard their parents complain about bosses.

Instead of agreeing with complaints or merely listening to them, parents have an opportunity to help children find solutions to the things that bother them.

Parents can say, "I can see why that concerns you. What do you think you could do about it?"

Sometimes we can change things. Other times we need to accept things as they are. That's part of growing up and an important step toward independence.

Children also need to be given opportunities to be creative thinkers, to come up with their own ideas.

When projects are assigned this year, don't be tempted to step in and take over. Let your child take the lead and let him know you're available if assistance is needed.

Even if other parents are turning in projects that could never have been done by a 9-year-old, Kaufman recommends reassuring your child that his work is good: "I'm so proud of you. You may see some projects where kids had help, but you did this all by yourself."

Who knows? Your child's ideas may be better than yours ever could be. Those little minds are incredibly creative ... especially when it comes to avoiding bedtime.

For more information, go to on the Web.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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