Empowering our children to have success in the classroom
As we were celebrating the end of the school year, I was reminded of something Ellie said years ago. Her report card reflected all A’s, and I praised her for being so smart. But she said, “Mom, I am not really that smart. I just have the character to sit in class and listen to my teacher.” She was saying her grades were a reflection of her ability to be taught more than her inner IQ. Character matters and is something we go after for a lifetime, but those younger years are vital to setting a child up for lifelong success. If your child has never been taught to listen to and honor your voice, they will have a harder time in the classroom. If your child has not been expected to get along with siblings, they will have a harder time with peers. If your child has not been required to practice self-control in the family room, they will struggle with it in the classroom. Character matters!
Want to help your child reset after coming home from school? Give them an intentional few minutes of just being still in God’s presence. I would have a snack prepared for them and tell them to grab a corner of the living room and enjoy their snack while just lying quietly. Sometimes all it took was five minutes, and you could feel a shift in the atmosphere.
Do you have teens who resist spiritual things? No problem. YOU soak and fill the atmosphere of your home with His presence before they come home. When they walk through the door, they won’t be able to help but feel His presence.
Morning School routine for a child: Get dressed – Eat breakfast – Chores – Brush teeth.
Morning School routine for a parent: Fill their love tank – Create pockets of JOY – Remind them of who they are – Fight for peace.
Before you send your child out into the world, arm them with: A belly full of healthy food – A mind anchored in the truth – A heart tank overflowing with love.
When all my children entered formal school for the first time, it was a huge deal for them. They got inundated with many new things all at once. My goal for the two weeks leading up to it was simply focusing on their love tanks. The more they experience love at home, the more they will be able to handle what comes their way. Isn’t that true for you? Are you a better parent on the days when you and your spouse have conflict and are feeling detached? I bet not. Love languages matter!
We polled educators around the globe and asked: “Outside of academics, what do the kids in your classroom need the most?” The number one response was, “For children to have their love tanks filled.”
Children who come to school with low love tanks spend their time in the classroom looking for love. Children who come to school with their love tanks filled spend their time in the classroom learning. We are sending our children out into the world where they will encounter a wide variety of situations. They are growing and learning spiritually, mentally, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and physically at a rapid rate. Sending them out with a heart tank full of love helps them process, weather, endure, overcome and succeed far greater than the child who is on empty. The more they experience love at home, the more they will be able to handle what comes their way.
Homework – Go to The Love Language™ Quiz (5lovelanguages.com) and have YOUR CHILD take the quiz. Print them out and talk about them as a family (even Mom and Dad’s language). At the end of the quiz, there is an option to sign up for the weekly email, which is a short and sweet list of creative ways to speak love each week. In the days ahead, I encourage you to be super intentional about speaking their language every morning, as well as each night. Sandwiching their day in love is so important because they will encounter things each day that drain the tank. I realize schedules are busy, and it seems impossible at times to add yet one more thing to the to-do list, but I would like to encourage you that communicating love should be the first thing on the list, not the last. Loving someone should not be a burden or overwhelming. When you learn how to speak their language fluently, it is like hitting a bull’s eye right into their heart. We owe it to our children and teachers to do our part in giving them what they need each day to succeed in school. Be intentional. Fill the tank. Reap the results!!
Before moving forward to the new school year, let’s take a look at the previous school year. How we end is generally how we will begin. Meaning if nothing is done to steward your child’s weakness from last year, you can bank on it being an issue again the next year. Let’s break the cycle and help our children become more successful in the area they need to grow the most. Take a moment and ask yourself these questions about each child: What is something that caused continued chaos or frustration (Low grades? Disciplinary issues? Being late? Attitudes? Missing items?)? We cannot help our children grow in their capacity if we are not willing to first acknowledge there is a need for growth.
For my son, the area that brought a lot of frustration was taking out the garbage. I wanted to scream every Friday morning, “You had but one job,” but that is NOT the issue. The issue had nothing to do with the garbage cans overflowing. It had everything to do with taking responsibility for the things that have been entrusted to him. Oh, and I can see that this is also an issue with turning in his reading logs and remembering to bring his gym uniform to school. He was learning how to manage and steward responsibility, which is a lifelong trait that will bless him or hinder him. If I want to HELP HIM grow his capacity, I need to be able to look deeper than the behavior or subject line (trash, gym shirt, reading log) and see the underlying character issue beneath. If we only parent the subject, life becomes a list of rules: “Thou shall not forget the trash.” “Thou shall remember to bring thy gym shirt.” But what is REALLY going on is that he lacks faithfulness, which is the fruit of the spirit that lives within him (Galatians 5:22). When I only see the failed trash, it creates frustration in me as a parent. When I see that my son has an issue where he needs to grow, I am positioned to equip and train him to increase his capacity. One focuses on the subject; the other focuses on his heart and character so that he can carry that character growth everywhere he goes.
Here is the catch about increasing capacity. It does not happen by expectations, demanding, or threatening. It comes by creating a PLAN. Let me explain. I can hound my son, give consequences, discipline him, take away his phone, etc. But it will do little to produce faithfulness in him. However, if I take a moment and create a plan, I would see that his lack of taking out the cans, turning in reading logs, and bringing his uniform to school has more to do with learning how to manage things that occur once a week. It is not that he isn’t willing or even has a bad attitude about it. It is that he needed a plan to remind himself of these items that needed to get done that were not a part of his daily routine (which he is great at). Whoa. Now I actually feel compassion for him and want to help him vs. being mad and frustrated at his failed chores. He put a reminder on his phone the night before and a note on the wall that he sees every morning. Suddenly his capacity to be faithful with weekly items increased. What is one area that brought continued chaos or frustration last school year?
What would our school look like if each child came to school not only with a full belly but their love tank overflowing? What would it look like if we were able to help our children process the hurts and offenses so that healthy connections remained among peers on the playground? What if their character was the key that opened doors to greater favor and opportunities? You have a responsibility to teach and train your children at home so that they can be as successful as possible in the classroom.
God is creative. The enemy is not. He can only take what God has already created and twist and pervert it for his agenda, making it a counterfeit to the original design. But there is one thing he cannot counterfeit, and that is PEACE because peace is His presence, and he is not GOD! There is no such thing as ‘false peace.’ 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” I would argue that it is important to walk in His peace at all times, but I want to zoom in on the importance of creating peaceful school mornings. Chaos breeds hurt, pressure, fear, confusion, anxiety, low self-esteem, worry, insecurity, and doubt. It cripples their confidence and pushes them to act like orphans fending and striving. Chaos creates opportunities for them to take out their anger on others during the school day. Worse yet, it ushers them into emotional or mental isolation, which is the breeding ground for the enemy’s lies. Chaos sends our children to school feeling like they are a disappointment and disconnected from the ones who should love, value, honor, see and hear them the most. Chaos sets them up for hardships and conflicts with friends because they have unresolved heart splinters. Chaos can become a mental distraction causing an inability to focus well on school and learning. Their minds are focused on the lack of peace and connection from the morning, and it robs them of the freedom to engage in the moment. Some children spend all day fearing going home, knowing they disappointed Mom in the morning. This is the very opposite of our heart for them, yet we are gatekeepers for what we are allowing to transpire in our homes each morning. You are not a victim to your schedule or demands. Your child does not dictate and lead. You are a leader in your home. What you allow and tolerate is what you will reap.
I want to offer some suggestions for keeping order, even joy, in your mornings as you prepare for the day and get everyone out of the door.
Wake Up – Get alarm clocks for each person, making it their responsibility to get up on their own. Nothing creates more stress and sets the tone for the day than Mom yelling at a child to wake up for the tenth time. If my kids do not heed their alarm, I turn on their light. If they continue to refuse to get up, they lose out on get-ready time, but either way, my car leaves at the same time to go to school, and they will be in it. It generally takes an ‘I am serious’ moment for them to learn the lesson that getting up on time is VERY important as no child wants to go to school in their PJs. This applies to teens too. Nothing motivates a teen girl more to wake up than realizing she will miss out on doing her hair and makeup if she doesn’t manage waking up.
Role Play – For younger children entering school for the first time, have a mock school day where you wake up and pretend it is a school day. Walk through with them what needs to be done step by step.
Breakfast – Isn’t it interesting how we can be together all morning and never once even look at or see each other? Make a goal to sit together even just for five minutes. Talk about your upcoming day. This is a great time to cheer each other on for tests, tryouts, or heavier issues they are facing. I have a couple of great question games that we keep at the table to create conversation and laughter. Also, setting breakfast at a certain time each morning helps them manage what needs to be done by breakfast time (make bed, get dressed, etc.), as well as after (brush teeth, put shoes on, etc.).
Routine – Having a consistent routine and agenda helps children to be successful. They know what they can expect and what is expected. It helps them to be self-guided in managing their time, too. One thing that really helped when they first started formal school was to have them do it in order. They had to get up, then make their bed, then get dressed, then eat breakfast, then brush their teeth, etc. Doing it in order helped them to know what they should be doing next. When they got older, our morning routine included the kids getting up at 6:30 AM, at the breakfast table at 7:00, and out the door at 7:30. They managed themselves in between, but those three times needed to be honored. Establishing the expectations ahead of time took the pressure off me having to keep them moving. Do not be shy in creating a poster with the schedule and if you see a child not doing what they are supposed to be doing, ask them to check the schedule.
Lunches – Empower children to make lunches the night before, perhaps even on Sunday. Create an atmosphere of empowerment rather than pressure like it is a chore. Praise them for their effort and accomplishment. I told them they had to have one meat and one fruit/veggie, and one snack/treat, but they could pick what they wanted.
Clothes – Empower children to pick out their clothes the night before, including socks and shoes, or perhaps spend an hour on Sunday afternoon having them set out their outfits for the whole week. My girls love it! This includes a routine for gym uniforms. Picking out clothes in the morning can be a recipe for chaos, especially for girls.
Chores – Years ago, the kids wanted me to take them to the park, but I was too exhausted from the never-ending cycle of making meals, washing dishes, picking up, folding clothes, fetching juice, etc. I decided that day that since my children were a part of the household, they needed to contribute to the success. My top areas were the floors, dishes, trash, and laundry (which is perfect because I have four kids!). When they were younger, I printed out the weekly schedule and assigned chores and posted it on the wall in a frame. This empowered them to take responsibility, manage something, and feel good about their contributions. We have continued these chores to this day, but I have moved them to the evening so they can focus on other things in the morning. The only chore they have in the morning is managing themselves for school and putting their dishes away.
Bathroom – Is bathroom time a hassle in your home? Switch from AM showers to PM showers. Create a hair/makeup area in their bedroom, leaving the bathroom available for the basics.
School Papers – It caused me a lot of stress when the kids would shove a piece of paper in my face while driving, expecting me to sign it before we arrived. I created a system where anything that required my time, signature, or money needed to be placed on top of my coffee maker. I wake up early and review the pile while making my coffee. I respond and place the notes on the counter, making it their responsibility to get it in their backpacks. If they came to me in a panic about something, I would remind them of the system. Sometimes they had to get a ZERO on their reading log in order to learn that their lack of planning does not create a crisis on my end. I was holding onto my peace and teaching them to be more prepared.
Attitudes – If attitudes are something you deal with in the morning, it means their teacher is dealing with it, too. Do not ignore this character weakness, parent it. Pinpoint the real issue, such as a lack of humility, rebellion, or lack of self-control, and go after it in times of peace. Sit with them and let them know responding to authority that way is not acceptable, and then role-play some ways they could handle it differently. Go after that character trait in other ways. Teach, train, and empower them.
Family Meetings – I call “Family Meeting!” often in our home. The kids know they need to come immediately into the living room (yes, we had to practice what it means to come immediately and not 15 minutes later). I used this time to inform them of events, talk about issues, work through hurts/offenses, and allow their voice to be heard. We meet weekly, oftentimes more than that. During the school year, I made sure every Sunday we had a check-in and talked about the week, field trips, errands that must be run, things that needed to be added to the grocery list, playdates, permission slips, sports obligations, rides, science projects, etc. This helped us all to feel ahead of the game and not always reacting at the last minute.
What are some steps you can take to make sure you are sending your child out into the world armed with peace?
Bullying is an imbalanced use of power that operates out of intimidation and control. Bullying starts in the home, not on the playground. Before you call a family meeting, do an Internet search on the characteristics of bullying. Ask your children what bullying means and what it looks like to bully someone. Role-play different situations and talk about how each person may feel if that happened to him or her. Now talk about what it could look like in the home, how it would make siblings feel, and discuss creative ways things like sharing and communicating could be done to show respect for others. Why are the weapons of fear, intimidation, and control not healthy options? Create an anti-bully pledge card and ask if they would be willing to make an agreement to abstain from bullying their siblings. In the days ahead, when you hear sharp tones or see aggressive or inappropriate demands between siblings, go to them and, in a respectful tone, remind them of their pledge not to partner with intimidation and control. Ask them how they could handle the situation differently.
As a family, write out pledge cards like this: I will not bully others. I will not leave anyone out. I will help others who are being bullied. If I can’t stop a bully, I will tell an adult. I care. I can help. I can make a change! I will stand up for what is right. The end of bullying starts with me! I, _____, pledge not to be bully. Signed _____ (me), Signed _____ (Mom & Dad). Let’s send our children back to school with a wider understanding of how to be kind to those who are different.
This lesson was taken from our Character Counts SOAR parenting magazine. If you are interested in more activities, you can purchase your digital copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly