With our kids heading back to school, parents want to start the year off right. Rightfully so! Which is why it’s so important to avoid these 8 fairly common mistakes parents make each school year.

Before I was a mom, I was a teacher, setting up my classroom, making seat charts, and studying my rosters.

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After years of working with children, and now having children of my own, there are a few things I observed from parents each and every year that I promised I wouldn’t do when I, myself, became a parent. Why? Because I found the things some parents did were inadvertently harmful to their child’s behavioral and academic successes.

Of course, the teacher-parent relationship is a fragile one. We all want the same thing for our students and children, but parents are more emotionally invested- rightfully so. Now that I’m a parent, I completely understand this aspect, but since I’m no longer in the classroom, I can finally say the things I wanted to tell those parents so badly! Here are the 8 most common mistakes parents make that should be avoided:

Don’t Encourage Reading for Fun

Reading is key! Parents realize their children do a lot of reading at school, so they may want to give them a break from it at home. I totally get that, but, reading viewing reading as a chore could have harmful effects on your child’s academic success.

Encouraging your child to read books for fun is vital and should not be ignored by parents. If I didn’t believe this before I went into education, I definitely believe it now and here’s why:

On test days, I required students to have a silent read book on their desk to look at after they finished testing. If they did not have their own book, they were asked to borrow one from my bookshelf. I started taking note of which students consistently had their own book and which ones borrowed. Over time, one thing became clear, students who had their own silent read books, were among my highest achieving students! Although these were informal observations, the connection was clear: Reading for fun definitely meant something.

Yes, kids do a lot of reading at school, but it is mostly informational text or books that were chosen for them. It’s rare that our children get to choose what they read and how they read it in school.

So, when they’re at home, let them choose! Go to a fun bookstore or take a family outing to your local library. Give them the freedom to select a book they want to read (within reason) and make it exciting. It’s never too early to create a culture of reading in your home!

Some ways to encourage reading outside of school for smaller children include making silly voices for the characters or playing “I Spy” with the illustrations. As they become young adults, dedicate time each night to switch off reading every other page of a novel. I have the best memories of reading Nancy Drew books with my mom before bed, summarizing the chapter afterward. It was such a special time we shared together, which I still cherish to this day.

Aside from spending quality time with your child, reading also leads to higher vocabulary, better spelling, and exposure to different cultures, religions, ethnicities, experiences, and places that your kids may not see in their daily life. The places books have taken me are far beyond where I would be able to go in my lifetime!

The list of rewards from reading for fun can go on and on, so start now! Creating a culture for reading leads to life long learning and a worthwhile hobby; what a wonderful gift to give to your child that can shape them for years to come!

Speak for Them

As a teacher, I scheduled many meetings with parents and they scheduled meetings with me. Most of the time, these meetings had to do with how we could help their child in my class. Parents are their child’s voice, but we cannot forget that children have their own voices and those voices need to be heard. Sometimes, mistakes parents make include accidentally silencing those voices.

Kids should have a say and allowing them to take ownership of an action plan for higher achievement will greatly benefit them. Why? Because when a child has buy-in, the rewards are exponential! It’s also a great opportunity for a student and teacher to make positive connections and reach understandings that they may not be able to achieve during the quick day-to-day school schedule.

Give your child a voice. It’s a powerful tool they will need as they grow. They may whisper at first but will get louder as their confidence grows.

Think Their Child Does No Wrong

My child is perfect. Your child is perfect. Yes, looking at the big picture, they are perfect, but growing up involves making some mistakes. They are learning how to grow from little humans to big humans. As shocking as it may be, sometimes our kids do mess up and make strange choices that are completely out of character, but it happens!

Teachers are used to this situation too. You know that whole saying “When the cat is away, the mouse will play”? We see your child in a different light than you may see them at home. Outside influences, issues at home, the desire to please, too much sugar at lunch- all contribute to their actions at school. Of course, your child has a story to tell, but remember that even your perfect angel can mess up from time to time. It’s okay! Teachers didn’t get into teaching to work with perfect children, we are here for the messes too.

Disallowing Natural Consequences

It’s normal for parents to want to come to their child’s rescue whenever they need us. Unfortunately, when it comes to education, these “parents to the rescue” scenarios are mistakes parents make all too often.

If you have not heard about Love and Logic, I highly recommend this parenting and teaching philosophy. One major concept of this parenting technique deals with allowing our children to accept natural consequences for their actions and working through problem-solving skills to avoid similar mistakes in the future. 

I think the common example I can think of is a child waiting until the last minute to complete a project they’ve had weeks to do. This story never gets old for me, and I’ve seen it a million times! On the due date of a big assignment, I always expected to see at least 3 emails/notes from parents asking permission for their child to turn in their project a day later because of XYZ. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances, and I usually made room for such allowances, but that parent may have done a huge disservice to their child.

I can see the whole thing play out at home: said child procrastinated hardcore, missed every announcement about the project in class, didn’t use their time wisely when given the opportunity, then tells mom and/or dad the night before the project that they have a big assignment due tomorrow and want help. Mom and/or dad looks at the instructions and realizes it will be impossible to complete an assignment that was meant to take weeks, in just a couple of hours. Enter mom and/or dad not happy!

Depending on the assignment this is the perfect time to allow your child to accept the natural consequence for their actions. These natural consequences are going to be different depending on the school, classroom, or teacher, but learning from the experience will be so beneficial as they become adults.

Does The Work For Them*

Parents doing their child’s homework? Completing the work for your child is one of the craziest mistakes parents make, but I have received many assignments that were obviously completed by an adult. YIKES!

Unfortunately, this situation does happen, whether the parent is desperate for their child to get an A, trying to save their child from a natural consequence, or just doesn’t think their child is capable of doing the work, this action is so detrimental to your child and their success. Teachers know the difference, and we cannot help them if we are grading the parent’s work.

Furthermore, it may lead to more misbehaviors in class as your child may not do their work during class because they know you will do it for them!

*There are some scenarios where parental guidance is acceptable or coincides with a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan.

Accidentally Lowers Their Expectations

Accidentally having low expectations for our students is one of the most surprising mistakes parents make during their child’s schooling.

We like to keep our babies our babies for as long as we can. It’s totally natural, but sometimes our desire to see our children as our little babies can hinder their development. Lots of growth takes place during the school week when parents aren’t around. In viewing our kids as babies, we may miss that our child CAN actually do something they weren’t able to do before. I mean, how many times has your child surprised you? You aren’t doing it on purpose, but it can happen.

Just like you, teachers hold high expectations for their students. We are constantly working outside of their “zone of proximal development” (that’s a fancy way of saying that we are pushing our students just outside of what they are capable of doing), and if we say we believe your child can do XYZ, give it a thought before shutting it down. If we didn’t believe in your child, we wouldn’t say anything at all.

Think Teaching is for Teachers

I think it goes without saying that the learning doesn’t stop at school, but you’d be surprised what things I’ve heard from parents. Yes, it is a teacher’s job to teach your child, but it is a parent’s job to see their kid succeed indefinitely. Among some common but harmful mistakes parents make is thinking teaching is just for teachers.

Be engaged with your child and their schoolwork. Ask to see their organizers, tests, graded assignments, textbooks, etc. Ask them about their school day. See how you can further support your child at home, so learning doesn’t stop at 3:30. I was always happy to provide parents with resources if they wanted to work with their child at home because I needed the support and I knew how beneficial it is for your child to have it!

Teachers aren’t expecting you to pull out a powerpoint presentation to help further explain the War of 1812, but little things like changing up the dinner conversation to ask about opinions on subject matter or current events, planning family trips to places your child learned about, or even choosing movies to watch that further support their classroom curriculum will make a difference.

Complain About School Supplies

Teachers do a lot with nothing. They make magic happen every day with very little. Parents should know that, but the complaints continue. What’s worse is when they complain about the supply list in front of their kids. Please don’t do that. It’s an example of a power struggle and shows a lack of respect for what that teacher is trying to achieve. Kids see this and may also think this “bullying the teacher” mentality is okay. Furthermore, they may mirror the same type of behavior in the classroom.

If you cannot afford supplies or cannot find a particular supply, reach out to your child’s teacher. I promise, they will make something work for you. I purchased many school supplies, so that every student could participate (it’s also your right as a parent!). It didn’t bother me in the slightest to do that. But, when you complain about what the teacher is asking for in front of your kids, it diminishes that teacher and makes it seem what they are trying to achieve isn’t important. If it’s not important to you, why should it be important to your child?

I know from experience because my class required a 3-5 subject, college rule, notebook. Yes, this was specific, but I crafted every lesson around a research-based theory designed to help students retain information. Not only that, they would be creating a notebook throughout the year that they could keep with them for the remainder of schooling- history repeats itself throughout the grade levels, right? Just know, teachers typically don’t ask for things unless there is a reason for it. We see the big picture when we ask for those supplies and parents see dollar signs and time.

Now that I’m on the other end of it, I totally agree with a good vent sesh with your mom friends, just don’t do it in front of your child at Meet the Teacher Night!

Mistakes Parents Make Every School Year

As parents, we want what is best for our children, but sometimes we could be causing them harm without even realizing it. After much reflection, these are the eight common mistakes parents make each year. Being a self-aware parent can further your child’s success, while also creating a positive school and home environment.

What other ways do you think you can help your child at school? Share your ideas below!

Are you a teacher-mom like me? Check out my post on why YOU are a total rockstar, here.

The author, Nancy Fulkerson, taught US and World History in grades 4, 6, 7, and 8. She has a BA from Arizona State University in Secondary Education, History and a M.Ed from University of Southern California in Secondary Education, History.