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The Questionable Parenting Choices that are Making Teachers Quit

As teachers, we see and care for our pupils up to 8 hours a day...but the other 16 are all down to you, parents! Whilst we can try to do as much as possible to teach, inspire and support your little one whilst they are in school, a lot of their behaviour and ability to learn in our classrooms comes down to what is done, or not done, at home. Your parenting choices have an enormous impact, either positive or negative, on your child and by extension, their teacher. Let's explore some positive and negative impacts that parenting choices have on your child's teachers.



I want to make a very blatant point before we go further into this article that, in no way, am I judging any parents or carers and many of the points below do not refer to any parents raising children with SEND. I am aware of just how hard things are for many parents right now, and I do truly believe that we need to improve teacher-parent relations to ensure continuity for children at home and in school, but having spoken with hundreds of teachers, there are some points that come up time after time regarding children's behaviour that can be traced back to things allowed at home.


We are in the midst of a teacher recruitment and retention crisis, with thousands of teachers leaving the profession every term and hundreds of schools missing class teachers or teachers of key subjects. Previously, this was due to being underpaid and overworked, and whilst that is still very true, more and more teachers are also reporting that one of the biggest reasons they are leaving the classroom is the behaviour they face on a daily basis. Behaviours such as being sworn at, being threatened, being punched, hit, spat at, having things thrown at them - I've even had teachers say they were suspended due to false allegations being made against them by students or malicious purposes (proven to be malicious).


On a societal level, we are failing hundreds of thousands of children. As hard as it may be to accept, the breakdown of the traditional family home, and with more children being raised either by single parents or in blended families, is contributing to a generation of confused, hurt, traumatised children (divorce is an adverse childhood experience), and many are also growing up in homes where parents are absent or implementing parenting choices that simply do not prepare them for the real world, with the first hit of reality being when they walk though those school gates. Let's explore further.


Parenting Choices that Impact Teachers & Children's Learning


No Consistent Bedtime

This is such a huge issue for us teachers as the ramifications of an inconsistent bedtime are far reaching. Ideally, kids and teens need around ten hours of sleep per night. A regular bedtime routine helps with this, and since wake-up times are usually the same due to school hours, a consistent bedtime is key. Tired children can display lack of focus, excitability and/or lethargy which ultimately results in a delay in learning. As a teacher, fighting tiredness in kids is much like sticking a plaster over a gaping hole.


The caveat to this is for any students with SEND or medical needs. I know that getting autistic or ADHD children to sleep through the night can be near impossible and screen time is very essential at times, especially for 'down time' or so that they can engage with interactive games or a special interest.


Early Use of Social Media, Video Games and Inappropriate Content

According to a recent study, the average age that a majority of children now have a mobile phone is 7 years old. And, most of the time, they're not getting Nokia brick phones designed only for text, calls, and Snake - they're getting iPhones with unlimited access to the internet and social media. It is very easy for a child to viciously bully another online, typing things that they would never say in person. Keep in mind that when a child hurts another child in person, they receive immediate feedback of the consequences of this decision: the other child will cry, or retaliate, or respond in some other way that makes it clear they’ve been hurt. Online, this response is invisible, so the aggressor has been denied an opportunity to learn from it, to develop compassion or empathy. This stunting of social growth has consequences that teachers often have to deal with. Many times, bullying spills over from outside school into the four walls of the classroom, and teachers must use class time to placate parents and mediate conflicts that began the night before.


In addition, unsupervised access to social media allows children to have access to 'influencers' that may spout unsuitable, dangerous content. The first person that comes to mind, that infiltrated many young people's social media is Andrew Tate, but thousands of children are also being exposed to content surrounding dangerous ideologies, unrealistic standards in terms of beauty or fitness, and harmful expectations of what life is really like.


It's not just social media that can be concerning for teachers; I've had children as young as 7 know all about violent video games such as Call of Duty, GTA and CS;GO. There is still a lot of debate around what impact video games have on children's tendencies towards violence, but what can be agreed on is that children this young should not be exposed to violence, swearing, inappropriate behaviour and, in some cases, even sexual violence. Additionally, too much video game time can lead to poor social skills, time away from family, school work and other hobbies, lower grades, reading less, exercising less, becoming overweight, and having aggressive thoughts and behaviours.


Lack of Manners and Respect


A simple please and thank you go a long way but sadly it is something that we teachers hear less and less. In fact, I've heard children be outright rude and disrespectful to teachers, speaking to us as if we were their mates or worse, minions. "I need a f***ing pen Miss." "I ain't got no paper." "This lesson is s***." Swearing and speaking to others, including adults, like dirt can be very common place in the homes of our students and such behaviour is often even 'rewarded' by just giving the child what they want, regardless of how they ask for it. Swearing is especially concerning as I have known 2-3 year olds having a vocabulary worse than that of a sailor and this goes on to make making friends or having positive experiences with other children very difficult.


I have personally noted a real change in the way that children respond to teachers in schools these days, taking a certain tone of voice with us and just having a total disrespect for the time, effort and passion we have poured into trying to make every lesson engaging, fun, educational and relevant. It is disheartening, at times even soul destroying, for educators to have their greetings ignored, their treats taken for granted or criticised, and requests phrased as demands.


Lack of Independence


You may have seen more and more in the news that children are starting school, and being classified as not school-ready. This is mostly referring to children entering Reception (1st year of school) still wearing nappies -- again, this does not include any children with SEND or medical needs, rather just referring to mainstream, neurotypical children. I have heard the discussion that it is not parents duty to toilet train their child and that that is what Early Years staff in schools are for. No!! Whilst we may expect a few accidents when children first come to school and may need some support with toileting, they should be able to independently use the toilet and certainly not come in using nappies. Early Years classrooms are not built, or staffed, to have lots of children using nappies and these educators should not be having to sacrifice valuable teaching time to manage an extensive toileting schedule - and often, we are then criticised that children are not making progress in other areas of the curriculum because we're focussed on toilet training. Can't win.


In addition, other major life skills that should be taught at a young age are still being missed or not taught at all. Many Early Years or even Year 1 classes struggle with children who cannot brush their teeth, eat food with a knife/fork, dress themselves, and in some cases, speech development is so far behind that staff are trained in Makaton to aid communication. Now I think that Makaton is a great skill to learn regardless, but needing to use this form neurotypical children due to a lack of speech development because they do not get spoken to or are exposed to continuous speech, is concerning.


This lack of support for helping build independence also spills over into academics, whereby children can often feel like they simply can't do things without constant adult support. At the first sight of something becoming too difficult, children often just give up and this is where we teachers often then see challenging behaviour.



Not Reading to Children


Linking to the point above, where children are coming to school not being school-ready, a huge part of that is referring to children's lack of literacy. Research has found that young children whose parents read to them daily have been exposed to at least 290,000 more words by the time they enter kindergarten than kids who aren't read to regularly.


Aside from language and literacy, reading is also an important tool for helping children develop empathy. As kids read books about people whose lives are different from their own (and especially stories told from the perspectives of those people), they gain an appreciation for other people’s feelings, as well as other cultures, lifestyles, and perspectives.


Books can also help kids learn how to handle their own feelings in healthy ways. Seeing characters in books experience big emotions like anger or sadness lets kids know that these feelings are normal — and gives them a chance to talk about their own difficult feelings, too.



Never Being Told No


I think this parenting style is being talked about more and more, especially by teachers. We are seeing lots and lots of children who have clearly never been told 'no' or have never not been able to have what they want. Nearly daily, I have to put out fires with children throwing a tantrum when they are expected to do something they don't want to do, are not given exactly what they want, are unable to take turns or cannot celebrate another child's success if it meant that they didn't win.


Children who have never had to face boundaries can suddenly find it very difficult being in an environment where there are rules and expectations, and if you have 20 children all expecting to get their own way, you're on route for a disaster as a teacher when you try to lay down boundaries.


Junk Food Diets


Personally, this is a big one for me as I am passionate about health, nutrition and fitness. I know, as do we all, that children love junk food and it is absolutely fine to give it to them...on occasion! Sadly, I do see a lot of children struggling with their weight due to practically living off junk food or takeaways. Not only does this impact their physical health, but it also affects their mental wellbeing, behaviour and ability to learn effectively. Whilst chicken nuggets and chips are fine every now and then, I have met children who are 5 years old who have never eaten home cooked meals or had any vegetables. Now, I know that many parents ae rushed off their feet and cooking a wholesome, home-cooked meal may be a large ask but there a thousands of 5 minute healthy meals that parents can make quickly, or even prep in bulk at the start of the week and then re-heat across the week.


Another problem I do see often is that parents simply don't know how to cook good, healthy, nutritious meals. We don't need to be Michelin star chefs, but being able to cook healthy meals is something we all need to learn, ideally early in life. Knowing how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into meals and disguising them so that kids will eat them without protest is a skill, but one that can easily be mastered by looking for inspiration on TikTok, YouTube or Pinterest. No need to reinvent the wheel - take tips from other busy parents!


Here are just a few of my favourites;


Getting your child involved in the cooking process is also a great learning and bonding experience. Yes, they may make mess and it may take an hour extra but the benefits for your child's brain and physical development will be far reaching.



Effective Parent/Teacher Communication


The best outcomes are achieved when strong partnerships exist. Put simply, pupils have better outcomes when parents or carers and the school are positively engaged. It’s no surprise to me, and should be no surprise to readers, that proper joint working and positive engagement with parents/carers can make significant differences in outcomes for young people.


What concerns me is the amount of teachers who reported that they get daily abuse from parents, many of whom are, yes, under a lot of personal pressure, but does this give reason to berate and abuse teaching staff? Sometimes teachers have constantly been told that they are failing children or that we have an 'easy job' because of the amount of holidays or reduced working hours -- clearly people who say this have never been a teacher! I know from my own experience, I also had a lot of parents who requested me and my team do absolutely everything for their child, often requiring a lot of extra time and resources, and when you have 20 parents asking the same for their child, it becomes an impossible task.


There also appears to be some misunderstanding of what a teacher's role actually is. Some teachers reported they had been asked to teach children how to tie shoe laces or to write party invitations and hand out to all the child's friends - this is not in our job description. We are there to educate and support the emotional, academic and social development of children and deliver the curriculum, teaching key skills and knowledge across the subjects.


Another topic that came up a lot is that some parents will always defend their child, no matter what their actions were. When parents are called in to discuss a disciplinary or sanction against their child, some parents will defend a child's behaviour, even if it was rude/violent/disruptive. When children see that their parents will defend them no matter what they do, it's essentially a green light to keep doing it, regardless of the impact it has on others because there simply are no consequences from the people that matter most. It then becomes impossible to manage this in school.


Summary


To summarise, I think I speak on behalf of a lot of teachers when I say that we are struggling right now. Possibly more than ever. When there are other work opportunities out there such as tutoring or curriculum development where we can put our skills to use for a) a lot more money and b) no need to behaviour manage, it's not hard to see why there is such a mass exodus of teachers.


The new generation of children coming through our schools appear to be entitled, unready for the real world and, on some occasions, just rude. The damage that early adoption of social media/adult content is having is starting to be seen, and I dread to think of the long-term effects this is going to have on our children's development, both academically and psychologically. Children need boundaries and whilst their childhood should be enjoyable, free, fun and full of wonder, it is also important to teach them what the real world is like. Not everyone is a winner, you can't always get your own way, you do need to speak to people with respect and focusing on health is important.


Us teachers can try our very best to instil values such as these in children at school, but we need this to be continued at home. Many of these parenting choices listed above do not require families to be wealthy or have additional resources. The only resources you need to give children are time, love and attention and it is important that, as parents, we strive to dedicate time every day to these small things listed above to ensure that our children thrive at home, at school and beyond.

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