Dads and School
By Kelly Kendall
I will never forget a friend telling me that his dad never attended a single ball game while he was in high school. It actually hurt my heart, and I felt a lot of empathy for him because my dad came to as many school activities as he could. I remember always looking inconspicuously into the crowd until I found him and my mother. Even though I was nervous, I always felt more confident playing ball when my parents were in the crowd supporting me, which was not an easy task for them. My parents had six children, and my dad was always earning money at a side job so that all of his children could take a variety of lessons and play a variety of sports.
Besides being providers, one way dads can support their children is by supporting them in school. In the article “10 Tips to Help Your Child in School,” the National Fatherhood Initiative shared these suggestions:
- Tell your child how important school is.
Hindsight is twenty/twenty, and the majority of fathers I know wish they would have tried harder in school and/or gotten more education earlier in life because it has such an impact on their ability to be a provider for their family. Do you want your children to understand the importance of doing their best in school? Model the behavior; set the example by being a lifelong learner.
- Make learning fun.
Although I was never pushed to go into a specific career, I was always encouraged to do my best and congratulated on my successes in school and college. One complaint I hear is that learning often turns into a source of contention between parents and children. Instead of arguing about homework and grades, find ways to make your home an inviting, enjoyable milieu for learning.
- Don’t leave everything with school up to the mom.
Back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, and school-to-parent communications should be the responsibility of both parents. It makes a significant impact on a child when both a dad and a mom take the time for these important responsibilities. It demonstrates to the child that their education is just as important to one parent as it is the other. It is also a signal of both parents’ care, concern, involvement, and consistency in their child’s schooling.
- Help with homework.
As long as children are in school, there will always be homework! I heard one father say that he and his child’s mother split the homework responsibilities. The mother takes care of the subjects about which she was more knowledgeable and the father takes over on the subjects he knows best. A divide-and-conquer approach helps show children that both dad and mom are united on the importance of learning.
- Get to know the teacher.
When I was in school, it was obvious that if I got into trouble at school, I was in much more trouble at home. I knew this because my parents were involved. They expected my behavior toward my teacher and the other students to be respectful and to meet a high standard. In today’s world, if a child gets into trouble at school, the parents defend the child instead of being supportive of the school and working with the teacher to resolve the issue. We know that teachers aren’t perfect. However, the majority of teachers go into education because of their passion for helping the youth become successful. Getting to know your child’s teacher will create a foundation for solving problems concerning your child should the need arise.
- Spend a day or two in your child’s class.
If you want to give the message that you care, simply spend time assisting in the classroom, accompanying the class on a field trip, or helping with classroom activities. In other words, actions speak louder than words!
- Get to know the other children in the class and their parents.
I remember being a “reading helper” in my child’s elementary class. I listened to each child read for ten minutes to pass off their reading assignment. I also remember my child coming home from school and telling me that one of her friends thought I was a “cool dad” because I spent time in the classroom and helped all of the children with reading (even though I secretly knew my own child was a tiny bit embarrassed to have her dad come to her class).
- Go to school and class events.
Nothing says “I care about you” more than showing up to your child’s choir concerts, plays, events, activities, and ball games. This kind of support is so important—just ask a child whose parents don’t show up. A wonderful event that can be painful for some children is Dad’s and Donuts, where dads come to read with their children and the school provides donuts and milk. It is heartbreaking to witness a child who doesn’t have a father in attendance.
- Get time off work to attend school and extra-curricular events.
Many jobs have paid time off and some employers will work with dads who want to attend their children’s events. However, there are times when a father simply cannot attend an important school event. At times like these, a phone call on the day of the event will say, “I wish I was there. I care about you.” And oft-repeated mantra spoken long ago by David O. McKay rings true whenever I hear about a dad who is so focused on work that he doesn’t make time to be present at his child’s school events: “No success can compensate for failure in the home.”
- Join the school’s parent-teacher group.
If you really want to have an impact on your child’s education, get involved in the school’s PTA (Parent Teacher Association). Show up to make a difference in the school and in the lives of all the children, especially those without supportive parents. I have never heard a parent say that they spent too much time at their child’s school.
Children grow up so fast! Don’t put off helping and supporting your children in school, or it will be too late. They will be all grown up and independent. Remember, the way you spell LOVE to a child is TIME!