We Do This At School!

Originally published in the Summer 2015 Parents’ Resource Guide

Leyda Morales knows firsthand about school culture. After years of working with children in the Grass Valley Schools as English Learning Manager, she is well studied in the daily conventions of school. I was tickled with her enthusiasm as she said what became a familiar refrain while she was interpreter for a Triple P Parenting workshop for Spanish-speaking families. Every so often throughout the class Leyda would interject brightly, “We do this at School!”

When children come to school they are shown how to function as part of a group, how to take turns, and how to follow a set of rules that foster shared participation within the school community. Leyda, while interpreting the Triple P Parenting materials, was in a unique position to observe similarities between what families were learning at the workshop and how this compared with what children learn in order to function at school. She got me thinking how when families have clear, age-appropriate guidelines at home, their children will have more of a sense about how to fit in at school. This can make the transition toward acclimating to school each fall a whole lot easier on kids.

When Leyda would get very excited during Spanish Triple P, her Spanish would sound faster and faster. I wouldn’t have a clue what she was saying, until she would stop and say, in English, “I was just telling the class how ”we do this in school!” One time, I had been sharing Triple P Parenting ideas for helping things run smoothly at home and highlighting the strategy of setting clear ground rules. Some families like to think of this as making family agreements. The family sits together and talks about what will help them get along better, how to have less fighting and more fun, and how to incorporate into daily life the family’s values of treating each other with love and respect. The family then gets the rules down on paper, perhaps even written down and decorated by the children. The family rules or agreements are then posted for everyone to see. Leyda explained how at school they teach the rules of caring for each other and their school and every child learns what is expected in order to abide by the rules.

Children who live in a household with clear standards and accountability can more easily understand about the rules at school. There will be something familiar about having the teachers say, “Wait your turn, please.” If you haven’t already been doing this at home, don’t worry! It’s never too late. You can sit down and make your family agreements today. Just remember, it will take time for your kids to test out whether you’re serious about enforcing these new ideas.

When children return to school each fall after practicing family rules or agreements at home, it will feel natural to abide by school rules. Why? Because they can think to themselves, I know how this works because we do this at home!