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ParentNet® First Grade Summary

Twenty-six parents attended this morning's ParentNet Meeting. We began by reviewing the ParentNet Contract and the philosophy of ParentNet.  We hope to build and foster a process of sharing and networking that will continue as our children grow and advance through school.  Each parent was reminded to stay within his/her comfort zone and of the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of the specific comments made by others.  Parents were invited to recommend a topic for discussion.  As each parent spoke, a list was written on an easel in view of the entire group.  The issues the parents wanted to discuss were:

  • Dealing with change (moving, new school, new siblings)
  • Consistency in handling children (from time-to-time, between parents, grandparents, babysitters)
  • Single parenting (both actual and virtual, including travel and work schedules)
  • Quality of time with children/balancing time
  • Dealing with death in the family
  • Empathy for a child's feelings (reading the signals our children give us)
  • Balancing homework, other activities (pressures to "get it done")
  • Dealing with an overly focused child (e.g., only wants to do sports activities)
  • Dealing with incorrect social behavior/age inappropriate (e.g., acting too old, too young)
  • Behavior (the hierarchy - who is in control, the parent or the child?)
  • Dealing with stressful times (e.g., mornings and evenings)
  • Dealing with multiple children (sibling rivalry, balancing time)
  • Allowing a child to suffer the consequences of his/her actions
  • The need for parent networking (there is no instruction book!)
  • Disciplining a child (how, when)

Next, parents voted on the topics, and the top choices (covering several common themes) were selected for discussion. We split into two discussion groups.

Group 1 Discussion

Balancing Time
The discussion focused on how parents can make enough time for all their children, and how to ensure that we are achieving a balance between children. We decided that it boils down to making choices to relieve the guilt associated with not having enough time with each of our kids. One parent elected to take her youngest child out of daycare so that the child had a certain amount of undivided attention during the day, which helped when the older children got home from school. The parent then felt much better about dedicating time to the older children.

Helping Children with Homework/Parental Stress Associated with Getting Everything Done:  The group decided that most parents are experiencing a lot of stress because we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do everything. We decided to let our children take responsibility for the actions that they are capable of handling themselves, such as packing their own book bags, laying out their clothes, etc. As the child grows older, the scope of these responsibilities will broaden and expand.

A parent with older children shared that parents are not doing their child a favor by being completely "hands on" when helping with homework. Once a child gets in the habit of having you there, it is very hard to wean him/her away. It was also pointed out that homework is a tool teachers use to gauge a child's progress. We decided that children need to be supported with help and directions and should be checked for completeness, but the answers should be the child's (even if they are not correct).

We talked about dealing with a child who has a very hard time getting homework done (or refuses to do it), causing extreme frustration to the parents. One person suggested an exercise that can be done with the cooperation of the child's teacher - letting the teacher know in advance that, if the child flat out refuses to do his/her homework, the parent is going to respect the child's choice. The purpose of this exercise is to allow the child to suffer the consequences of his/her choice. Many parents thought this would solve the problem. We need to lose the fear that our children's actions will reflect poorly on us. We must have the courage to let our children make certain choices and either reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of those choices. "Tough Love"

Extra Curricular Activities
One parent said that a variety of extra curricular activities are important to grooming a well-rounded child. The group agreed that the well-rounded child is important, but went on to discuss how much is too much. A parent should ask herself/himself if the chosen activities are for the child or the parent. The group agreed that it is okay for parents to mandate certain things, such as religious education. But, when it came down to other activities, the group felt that it is important to let the child make choices, even if they are not the choices we would like to see them make.

We discussed how these activities affect the whole family, especially siblings. We decided it is important for a sibling to make good use of the time during extra-curricular events (e.g., using the time to do homework, reading or private playtime between a parent and a child not participating in the activity). One parent also suggested that it is helpful to plan for a playmate for a sibling during the activity time to avoid the "Tag-Along Syndrome." Bedtime:  There was a brief discussion about first graders' bedtimes. The consensus was 8:00 to 8:30 as the optimum time.

Group 2 Discussion

Consistency versus Reasonableness
We discussed how to be consistent and reasonable with a child at the same time.  Ideas included

  1. Limiting choices by giving the child only one or two choices of what to do/how to behave
  2. Choosing your battles (don't sweat the small stuff) and
  3. Redirecting behavior. 

Several guidelines that parents use to differentiate between controlling the child and letting him/her make the choices:

  1. Help the child think through what happens in life by asking questions (e.g., "What was your favorite thing/least favorite thing that happened today?"  What do you want to go to bed remembering about today?")
  2. Give the child "detox time" after school - give him/her time to relax before trying to connect (e.g., wait until dinner to ask the questions).

Teaching the Consequences of Actions
Parents agreed that we need to let our child fall and face the consequences of his/her actions.  For example, if the child consistently fails to put dirty clothes into the proper bag, then they do not get washed.  It was noted that we need to separate our success as parents from the child's success - we can be proud of them when they succeed and be empathetic when they fail, but the consequences are their own and do not reflect personally on us.  Our job is to see that our children are happy and well adjusted, but we also must teach independence.

We must recognize that there will be times when "Tough Love" is necessary and times when TLC is called for.  Most first graders still want discipline and need the sense of consistency that it brings.  Proper discipline involves defining the rules, then imposing consequences.  In this regard, while some parents believe that spanking is appropriate, most of the group felt that taking away privileges and using time out is most effective.

However, as it is often said, parents must love their children the most when they deserve it the least. Any discipline must be tempered with compassion. We need to remind our children that we love them, but their actions hurt us, as well. For example, if a child makes a derogatory comment about food that you have made, one response would be to say "Do you believe that Mommy loves you? How do you think Mommy feels when you say that her chicken stinks?"
Lastly, as parents, we should demand respect. The first grader who wants to question every rule often confronts us. Sometimes it is appropriate to just say, "That is the rule, and you will live by it." The key is to be consistent and reasonable in setting the rules and in dealing with violations.

A great meeting -- we hope to see you at our next one!


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