What Kind of Back-to-School Parent Are You?

Just saw on Twitter that a local elementary school is offering a Kinder Parent Information Night and thought, “How progressive to teach parents to be kind and compassionate this year!” Realized later that Kinder was short for Kindergarten. 

But what if it really meant learning to be kind? (Some of my teacher friends just sat up and thought, “HUGE MISSED OPPORTUNITY,” and devised about ten other parent nights you’d like to see. God bless you. You are in my prayers so much right now!) 

So here’s what I’d like to see us embrace as KINDer parents for the new school year.

Less rushing in to solve every problem. I am a total mama bear on behalf of my kids—protective and fierce. However, let’s just say I have been known to jump to conclusions a few times before I had the whole story. What I’ve found is that my kids are now old enough to talk to their teachers and their friends and do a whole lot of problem-solving well before Mama needs to get involved. Besides, it’s good for them to feel some consequences for late assignments or being jerks at the lunch table. Their future bosses won’t be nearly as kind as their teachers are. That being said, sometimes we must be unapologetic allies for our kids in toxic situations—let’s learn the difference, though.

More stepping up to teach our kids not be jerks (and to turn in that homework). As good as it is let my kid experience problem-solving or suffer some consequences at school, it’s not the school’s primary job to correct behavior and instill values. The kindest thing I can do for my kids’ teachers is to raise responsible, teachable children who have empathy and respect for others. They are kids. They will do stupid stuff, and I want them to be called on it. However, I will work hard to bring my “A” game to parenting so teachers can motivate and educate instead of referee and babysit. 

Behaving in the car line. This an ongoing joke at our house. I wax poetic at other drivers (that’s a nice way of putting it, don’t you think?) and generally waste energy critiquing the whole process of pick up and drop off. But lately I’ve realized what a big ol’ privilege it is to be IN that car line because my schedule is flexible right now. This year, then, I will strive to give other parents a whole lot of grace to learn not to block up traffic, not to go the wrong way, and not take about five minutes longer than I think they should take. If I do gently honk at you, though, please know that it’s because you are on your cell phone and endangering some kids. That’s also me being kind.

Remembering that teachers and administrators are also parents—or even if they aren’t, they do have a life. Just like me, they come home frazzled over what to cook and how to get kids to activities. They sometimes stay up too late working, or handling family dramas, or maybe just watching one or three too many episodes on NetFlix. Frankly, some days they get tired of snarky teenagers or whiny kids, JUST LIKE ME. That doesn’t mean I won’t ask questions when I really do need explanations, especially if my kid has tried to address an issue first without success. But it does mean I will try NOT to lose my cool when an email or voicemail doesn’t get answered the first time. I will assume it got buried, and I’ll try again. I will also try not to get so dang offended when I sense “a tone” during a conversation. Again, too little sleep and not enough coffee can make anyone grumpy. That doesn’t mean I’ll butter up a habitual grouch with a lot of fake niceness, but I will strive to be kind and respectful. 

Supporting fundraisers and volunteering, but also looking to benefit more than just my own children. I want my kids to have a stellar year. I want their programs and schools to shine, but not just so it benefits them. We are a family with a lot of resources, but there are kids who need mentors and band instruments and just one pair of tennis shoes that doesn’t have holes. Teachers are spending their own money on school supplies for kids who come to school without a pencil to their names. I will show up to help my kids have amazing activities and trips, but kindness dictates I also look for ways to help level the playing field for some other kids, too. That way they get to add their talent and tenacity to our larger community, and we all benefit from what makes them beautiful and unique. (Go here to check out an innovative organization we support to help schools in our district.)

Praying regularly for teachers and staff. Nothing makes me a more compassionate person than lifting up others in prayer. We have ten or twelve folks that meet in our home for bible study and of those, four are teachers. You would not believe their hearts for their students or some of the burdens they carry because they care. When my family is on the lookout for ways to pray for our schools, especially for specific teachers and staff, it opens our hearts, too. Prayer then leads to kindness in action so that we can join in with the good, hard work that goes on behind the scenes. 

I’m feeling challenged. How about you? We’ve got ample opportunities to reach into the lives of those around us by modeling kind, compassionate behavior, and there’s no more ready-made opportunity than at the schools where our kids attend. So here’s to being a kinder parent for the school year!

Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash

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