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parenting tips

How to Foster a Relationship With Your Child’s Teacher

Ever wonder how to get your child’s teacher to communicate more frequently? It all starts with laying the groundwork for a positive relationship.

If it ever seems like your child’s teacher does not contact you enough think about this:

Teacher’s of elementary have 20-30 per class; if all families are “conventional” (2 married parents) each family is a 3 person unit for the teacher. If a family is “non-conventional” the family unit could be made up of 5. The total number of people, per  20 pupil class, the teacher may need to communicate with (including the child) ranges from 40 to 60. Single subject teachers in higher grades increase this ratio because these teachers are seeing well over 100 children on a daily basis bringing the numbers to a possible 400 (including the child).

Teachers typically don’t play favorites, but they’re much quicker to communicate with parents who’ve made it a point to be positive, show interest and show kindness. No one wants to listen to an irrational rant by a dissatisfied individual, and everyone wants to be praised-teachers included.

As former middle school teacher (and a child of divorce), I have 3 tips to help you get your child’s teacher to reach out:

  1. Reach out early and kindly offering your assistance and understanding. Own up to your child’s imperfections in this first communication. And ensure the teacher you are part of your child’s educational team and that you’ll listen before reacting and refrain from attacking when you don’t like something. An example of a way to make this clear is: Thank you for all you do for my son. He really likes when you do projects in class. I know he has lots of energy. I wanted to reach out and let you know that we are here to support you. I’m sure you’ve noticed that our son is full of energy; we often try to give him tasks at home to release it before doing homework, we find if he unloads the dishwasher he can sit for 20 minutes.  If you have any tips for us, please share them; we are eager to learn other ways to help our son excel and feel good about himself. And we’re here to support you; please let us know if his energy is ever a distraction to others and we’ll happily work with you. 
  2. Call a few times a year to compliment the teacher- tell the teacher you don’t expect a call back, you just wanted to share how much you liked a recent unit of study, project or assignment and you wanted him/her to know you’re there anytime and you hope he/she has a great day
  3. Let go, and allow your child to be the main line of communication.  And even allow your child to fail. It’s hard, I know, but failure leads to better learning and satisfaction from one’s own achievements. Plus, your child’s teacher will appreciate that you take a step back and let it happen; kids can only learn if we let them and too much assistance (running home for the forgotten homework, complaining if your kid was caught cheating rather than allowing for a teachable moment, or doing their homework when they struggle) is counterproductive because kids learn they’re incapable, above the rules or don’t have to try because you’ll step in rather than learn how to be learners. . Any educator will tell you that the most successful learners know how to recover from setbacks. While those who have mom and dad preventing failure struggle both emotionally and academically. True Story: My son forgot his rain coat at school; he’s in kindergarten, it’s his first week. My mom instinct was to pull over, unload both kids including my starving, screaming preschooler and head back in to get it. But I refrained, instead making it a teachable moment that I hope sticks with him, allowing him to accept consequences and serve as a reminder to be responsible for his stuff. So, rather than tiger mom it, I calmly and kindly reminded him that he’s responsible for himself and his stuff, and since he left his coat at school he’ll just have to wait until he goes next week to get his rain coat (my fingers are crossed we get no rain over the long weekend). It’s a small failure, but it bothered him enough for him to be show concern, and hopefully it’s a building block towards greater responsibility in the future (because I don’t plan to have my kids living with me forever).

Reach out, infrequently and kindly, throughout the year. You’ll be surprised how often the teacher reaches out to you with positive feedback and any concerns about your child.

-Just one mom who remembers what’s it’s like being on the other side of the classroom, Jess

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How to Get Your Kids to Eat: Let Them Join You in the Kitchen

When I had one child we made magic in the kitchen on a daily basis. I invited friends to bring their kids for make your own pizza playdates. Then I had a second, and with a close to 3 year age difference, I found myself fumbling to pretty much accomplish anything, let alone cook with them.

Vivienne assisting in the kitchen
Vivienne assisting in the kitchen

Cooking went from being a passion to a chore and there was nothing magical on our plates. I avoided any assistance from my children, opting for hours of TV over the mess I knew they’d make and I’d have to clean. Needless to say, I felt pretty crummy at the end of each day when we sat down to dinner.

Mealtime went something like this: they wanted to continue watching TV (insert yelling, & acting like a crazy person to get them to sit), refused to eat the meal I cooked (insert threats, charts, rewards & the occasional crazy person rant), ran around the house like maniacs (insert time-outs, rewards for sitting, and lots of yelling) then the food went into the trash can (insert cursing, lots of cursing). Not only had I sacrificed time playing with them to make the food they tortured me with, but we were tossing money into the trash every night.

So I attended workshops, read countless tips and met with our pediatrician multiple times for ideas to get my kids (especially my super skinny son) to eat. No one had an idea that worked.

Through lots of trial and error I created one: I cook with my kids. The reward: they actually (usually) eat what I make-no matter what it is.

I’m not whipping up pate or crispy skin fish, but I’m making family friendly, healthy meals we can all eat and enjoy. We have a grass fed burger with a sauce you’d usually find on a Big Mac, and we have breakfast for dinner. We also have delicious recipes I find in my favorite food magazine, Cooking Light But I always make it a point to  ask my kids what they want before I head to the grocery store, and I always incorporate their requests into our weekly menu.

I ask them to join me every night, but on the nights I’m not serving a meal they’ve chosen, I make sure they come into the kitchen. At the end of our cooking time, they’re so excited to serve what they’ve made and tell their Daddy how they contributed, that they often eat most of what’s on their plate.

My two year old is amazing at mixing and pouring. My five year old is learning basic knife handling. They’re my taste testers, and my five year old loves describing the flavors based on the tastes he’s learned in preschool. I’m teaching them a lifelong skill, and helping them develop a healthy relationship with food.

So, when we pull chairs into the kitchen, assign jobs, and take turns creating a meal (and a giant mess) each day. I sigh with frustration, we waste an egg or two, but when we sit down to dig in, we’re ending our day on a happier note.

Breakfast for dinner in our Pj's
Breakfast for dinner in our PJ’s: note giant mess in the background

-There’s no magic formula for picky eaters; offering an option that works for me, Jess

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