Sure, firing off an email now makes it possible to communicate with our kids’ teachers—at all hours—without ever setting foot on campus. But if we don’t exercise some care with this instant form of communication, we may end up doing more harm than good whenever we push “send.”
To start, it’s helpful to remember that the classroom teacher is doing one of the following whenever she receives our email: She’s teaching (if she gets an email during school hours), preparing for that or the next day’s lessons (if she gets an email right before or after school), or living her “other” life (if she receives an email in the evening or weekend).
It’s also good to recall that we’re just one of 20-30 families in the class. That means our email may be the third, fourth or fifth one that the teacher has received that day.
So here are some guidelines to ensure that our emails are well-received.
1. We keep it short.
We do this by limiting ourselves to no more than three or four lines, thereby eliminating any possibility of writing a long tirade (about what’s upsetting us). Also, with a minimum line requirement, we have to get right to the point.
2. We’re specific.
What do we want from the teacher? In other words, what would we like to happen after our email is read?
3. We ask instead of tell.
We put our concerns in the form of questions, rather than statements that could be interpreted as telling the teacher how to run her class. For example, instead of writing there’s too much nightly homework, we might ask if the teacher is willing to explore ways to reduce our child’s assignments.
4. We make sure we haven’t already received the information we’re seeking.
Suppose we can’t find the paper listing what our kids need to bring for an upcoming class project. In such case, we’d email another parent in the class—not the teacher—to get that information (again).
5. We sit on an email for at least 24 hours.
We establish a waiting period so that we then have a chance to re-read and edit our email with a different mindset. And who knows? Maybe a day later, we no longer even feel the need to send the email.
6. We also email when we’re pleased about something.
Was our child talking nonstop about the great field trip? Were we impressed with the teacher’s thorough, insightful comments on our child’s report? If so, we share that kind of upbeat feedback in a quick email.
And so, what happens when we put the above ideas in place? Emailing becomes a way to ensure, rather than jeopardize, positive communication with our child’s teacher.
Whenever something is “wrong” with a child, we often look straight to the parents. For example, if a child is overweight, we’re quick to conclude that those parents aren’t monitoring their child’s eating habits or ensuring that he gets enough daily exercise.
And that may be the case. But there are other reasons that contribute to a child’s weight problem—and they have nothing to do with parenting. Here are three other factors:
1. Some kids’ lower centers of the brain never finished developing when they were babies. In such case, they may not get the message that they are full after they’ve eaten since that feedback is an automatic function of a fully developed midbrain. So imagine trying to control your weight when you’re always hungry.
2. Some kids have poor sensory processing, and that makes them feel as though they’re living life on a tight rope. When our senses work as intended, we feel secure when we move. However, if not, we may dread even the slightest movement. No surprise that such kids aren’t eager to play soccer or sign up for gymnastics or engage in any other kind of exercise.
3. Some kids have a virus that has recently been linked to obesity. A new study by a researcher at the University of California suggests that childhood obesity may be linked to adenovirus36. In the study, 78% of the children who tested positive for the virus were also obese.
And then, what if a child eats junk food, doesn’t exercise, and has one or more of the above going on? Maybe all those factors, together, explain the rise in childhood obesity.
The bottom line: It may take more than just a change in eating habits and an increase in exercise for kids to be healthy and fit.
How much time do we waste arguing with our kids? And more importantly, how many of those arguments are just rehashed versions of what we argued about yesterday, last week, and last month?
It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some ideas on how to end the arguing.
1. We establish non-negotiable subjects.
For example, safety issues were never open for discussion in our house. From the get-go, we made it clear that our parental perception of safety trumped everyone else.
2. We make sure our kids know which topics are open for discussion.
Initially, my sister said no when her thirteen-year-old daughter approached her about going on Facebook. But she also said she might change her mind—if convinced otherwise. And that’s what happened. My niece wove her mother’s concerns into an impressive Power Point presentation that explained how Facebook would not be a problem in their home.
3. We hold back on unsolicited advice.
We may not even realize how many times a day we’re throwing out suggestions and opinions. So while our initial reaction might be to tell our kids to redo a homework paper that is messy and ripped on the edges, we don’t start with that. Instead, we’d ask: Would you like some feedback on your homework? And if our child says no, then we really need to honor that (unless we want to start an argument).
4. We post a chart of repeated argument lines with our responses to such statements.
Suppose our kids always say, “Everyone else gets to . . . .” So we’d write that line on the chart with something such as the following below it: No one in this house is named Everyone Else.
Then we don’t ever say a word (we just point to the chart) whenever our child says one of those lines. With no dialogue, a potential argument never even has a chance to get started.
5. We ask our kids for their input on ways to prevent recurring arguments.
When my daughters were pretty young, clean up time potentially triggered an argument. So I challenged them to come up with a way that I could ask them to do this without sounding like I was nagging. They thought about it for a few minutes, and then told me I just needed to say “please” at the beginning of the request. Worked for me! And now (since they thought of the solution), they were locked into complying whenever I would say, “Please clean up your toys.”
Guess what? When arguments no longer dominate our parent-child interactions, we get to enjoy spending time with our kids. That alone truly makes it worth trying new ideas.