The Primary School Years
© UNICEF Jamaica, 2005; Noorani
1. How can I help my child learn better in primary/prep school?
As a parent, you are responsible to ensure that you work with your child’s school to give him or her the best education possible.
Parents can help by:
- Ensuring children get healthy and adequate meals because nutrition is an important part of learning. A child needs a good breakfast and a good lunch to be alert and active in classes.
- Ensuring that children have the books and materials they need to use at school. If there is difficulty in providing your child with the books he or she needs, please check the guidance counsellor or principal at the school. They can help you get assistance.
- Ensuring that children attend classes regularly. Do not let them miss school. New things are being taught every day and they need to learn everything.
- Supporting children’s learning at home by making sure that homework is done and by encouraging children. You can read stories and do puzzles with your children. Help them join a local library so that they have access to lots of books. Watch educational programmes with your child. If your child has questions which you cannot answer, do some research together and have fun finding the answers.
- Encouraging your children to work hard at school. Praise them when they do well and try to help and motivate them when they face challenges.
- Supporting your child’s school and keeping in touch with his or her teacher. Join the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) and participate in its activities. Take time to talk with your child’s teacher about his or her progress. Ask the teacher for ideas on how you can help your child do well in school.
2. My child is not listening to me and behaves badly at times. How can I discipline her?
As a parent it is natural to feel upset or angry when a child misbehaves, but it is also important to learn to control our feelings and to ensure that our actions result in positive behaviour.
Physical punishment, such as hitting, spanking, pinching, slapping, shaking or “boxing” the child, should not be a part of your programme of discipline. It not only hurts and demeans the child but it also reinforces the idea of violence as a method of problem solving. Children learn violence through corporal punishment.
Communication is a very important part of correcting a child’s behaviour. Talk to your child and try to find out why she is not listening to you and has behaved badly. Be open and honest with your child but also show that you care for and respect him or her.
There are different ways to effectively discipline a child:
- Set realistic and clear limits for your child. Let them know early what is or is not acceptable behaviour. Remember too that you must set the example and “practice what you preach.”
- You may choose to ignore some forms of inappropriate behaviour which are not dangerous to the child or to others. Give approval and attention when there is appropriate behaviour.
- Give the child a “timeout” in which he or she is isolated from others. Timeout gives the parent time to cool down and gives the child time to reflect on his or her behaviour.
- Praise and reward good behaviour as a way of discouraging bad behaviour
3. I am afraid that my child is watching too much television and I think that he is watching some programmes that are for older persons. What can I do?
Television poses challenges for parents, but it can also be used to support effective parenting. Researchers have noted that television can discourage physical activity as well as the development of thinking strategies and reflection in children. Television also exposes the viewer to depictions of violence and sexual activity, which are in the content of a lot of television programmes.
As a parent, you need to control the power of television and also get the most out of this very useful tool. Here are some things you can do:
- Set a limit on television time and be firm about it
- Encourage activities and reading among your children
- Monitor the types of programmes your children watch and ensure that you get a package of programming via cable that is suitable for children. Activate the monitoring mechanism provided by your cable company which screens out programmes which are not suitable for children below a specific age.
- Watch television with your children and discuss what you have viewed.
- Praise your children for good viewing habits
- Practise what you preach – if you want your child to watch less television and to avoid certain programmes, you must set the right example by not watching too much television or by watching those programmes you have criticised as unsuitable.
4. My children are always fighting each other. Sometimes it gets so bad I do not know how to stop it and I just punish them both. This does not work as they still fight and quarrel. How can I stop this behaviour?
It is not unusual for siblings to fight and bicker among each themselves. Sometimes however the arguments and fights become too much. This excessive sibling rivalry may be caused by a number of factors including: favouritism shown by parents to one child; the loss of attention which older children may suffer when a new baby comes into the family; or jealousy between children.
When faced with sibling rivalry, parents can:
- Avoid favouritism
- Love and appreciate each child for what is unique and special about him or her
- Ignore the minor quarrels and allow the children to resolve these minor conflicts on their own.
- Teach children problem solving and conflict resolution skills
- Prepare children for the arrival of a new baby into the family
- Avoid overprotecting younger children and placing too much responsibility on older children