The experts have been polled and the results are in: a positive parent-teacher relationship contributes to your child’s school success.
“Easier said than done,” you may be thinking. After all, there are teachers your child will love and teachers your child may not. There are teachers you’ll like and dislike as well. There are teachers who may adore your child, and those who just don’t understand him. But whatever the case, your child’s teacher is the second most important person in your child’s life (after her parents, of course). And you can help make their relationship a strong and rewarding one.
“A positive parent-teacher relationship helps your child feel good about school and be successful in school,” advises Diane Levin, Ph.D., professor of education at Wheelock College. “It demonstrates to your child that he can trust his teacher, because you do. This positive relationship makes a child feel like the important people in his life are working together.”
Communicating well is a key factor for making this relationship work. “Communication on both sides is extremely important,” notes teacher Susan Becker, M. Ed. “The parents need information about what and how their child is learning, and the teacher needs important feedback from the parent about the child’s academic and social development.”
But communicating effectively with a busy teacher, who may have up to 30 kids in a class, can be challenging. When’s the right time to talk — and when isn’t? How can you get her attention? What should you bring up with her with and what should be left alone? How do you create a relationship with someone you may only see a few times a year? And how do you do this without coming across like an overanxious pain in the you-know-what?
Try these strategies to build a positive relationship with your child’s teacher.
Approach this relationship with respect. Treat the teacher-parent-child relationship the way you would any really important one in your life. Create a problem-solving partnership, instead of confronting a teacher immediately with what’s wrong. “Meet with a teacher to brainstorm and collaborate ways to help your child, instead of delivering a lecture,” recommends Susan Becker, M. Ed.
Let your child develop his own relationship with the teacher. “This is one of the first relationships with an adult your child may have outside the family unit. If you take a back seat and let the relationship develop without much interference, a special bond may develop,” advises guidance counselor Linda Lendman. “For young children, the teacher-child relationship is a love relationship,” adds Michael Thompson, Ph.D. “In fact, it may be their first love relationship after their parents and it can be pretty powerful and wonderful.”
Try not to brag. Of course you think your child is brilliant, but bragging over her many accomplishments may send a message to the teacher that you think he may not be good enough to teach your child. “You don’t need to sell your child to the teacher,” notes Michael Thompson Ph.D., “you have to trust that your teacher will come to know what’s important herself. Telling a teacher that your child loves to read will thrill the teacher. But challenging your teacher with statements like ‘Susie read 70 books over the summer’ or ‘Matthew is a whiz at math,’ may backfire.”
Remember how you liked (or disliked) your teachers. Your experience at school is likely to affect your attitude toward your child’s teacher. “It’s important to leave your own baggage at the door, so you can talk about your child with the teacher (and not about you!)” adds Michael Thompson, Ph.D.