Pre-school years are particularly significant in a person’s life. It is at this stage that children develop their language and social skills, they learn to be independent, which has a positive impact on their being initiative. It is also at this stage they will engage in behaviors such as touching, exploring and upsetting things; behaviors that may be worrisome to parents. It is, therefore, essential that parents and teachers should use methods that encourage children to develop appropriate behavior. This paper illustrates how home-school strategies and the parent-teacher relationships can be implemented to encourage the desired behavior from preschool aged children.
Involving the family in a child’s education is critical for development of positive behavior and good learning skills, especially in preschool aged children. To strengthen the children’s learning and development, an understanding of the fundamental aspects of the home and school contexts is indispensable. Positive relationship between the child’s teacher and parents is also a key factor in this endeavor. The main goal of cooperation between teachers and parents is to develop activities that enhance the child’s learning, both at home and in school environment (Scott-Jones, 1995).
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Importance of the Parents-Teacher Relationship
Many theories view parents as an essential party in ensuring the child’s optimal academic performance. This is because from their birth to around 18 years of age, children spend about 90% of their time outside of school. The way children spend this time affects their performance at school. According to Entwistle and Alexander (2000), parents can improve their children’s academic performance by taking them to museums, plays, movies, libraries, bookstores or letting them play educational and stimulating games.
Children cannot achieve their full academic potential if the responsibility to help them learn is left to the teachers alone. Parents alone cannot help their children perform to their utmost; this implies that mutual relationship is more than necessary for the child’s education. Meaningful roles for both parents and teachers are designed not to conflict or oppose, but rather ensure continuity in the provision of intellectually stimulating activities (Christenson and Hirsch, 1998). It is worth taking note, that parents and teachers are not opposing parties in a child’s education. Rather, they play complementary roles. Their roles should espouse mutual efforts in developing a child’s reading and learning. For a productive parents-teacher relationship to exist, the following factors are necessary:
A Student-Focused Attitude
In this case, the teacher and parent(s) work in harmony to provide the child with positive learning opportunities. These opportunities should be provided in four main realms including academic, social, emotional and behavioral.
A Belief in Shared Responsibility
As already stated, both parents and teachers are crucial in educating a child. Both parties provide educative resources in their respective environments (Rich, 1987). They should work together in meaningful ways to enhance the child’s learning progress.
Both parents and teachers have a duty to identify any barriers to a child’s academic progress. They should then work in liaison to provide apt solutions in a way that supports and encourages the child in question.
Teaching Children Desired Behaviors
According to Scott-Jones (1995), children learn and acquire most of their habits from their parents and teachers. It is, therefore, noteworthy that they are helped to learn and adopt ethical behavior and positive attitudes whilst still young. If children are taught to enjoy the indulgence in ethical behavior, then it is most likely that they will lead responsible lives as adults. Some of the desired behaviors include attachment, self-esteem, self-help skills, empowerment and pro-social skills. The behaviors are discussed in detail below.
Attachment refers to a child’s ability to not only form but also maintain emotional relationships with others. According to Rich (1987), when a child is born, it does not yet have any attachment with any other human being; but, as it grows, the child begins to become emotionally attached to the people close to it, especially to those who satisfy its needs. For healthy emotional development, attachment is one of the most important behaviors a child should be taught. The attachment helps children become more empathetic and trusting of others. Developing healthy emotional attachment to others helps deter aggressive and anti-social behavior among children.
Strategies for teaching the pre-school children attachment include:
- Get to understand the child’s fear and interests by asking about them and letting him or her talk of them. In another way, children should be encouraged to express their interests and fears through drawing. After learning them, activities that encourage them to pursue interests and forget about their fears should be developed.
- Monitor a child’s exposure to media is also to shaping its emotional attachment. Parents should be taught to allow their children to view programs that show and emphasize the importance of healthy human relationships.
- Smiling while talking to children. This makes them feel encouraged and become responsive.
- Express warmth by involving touching when communicating with a child. This includes patting them on their shoulders, as well as rubbing and hugging them. However, overstimulation should be avoided, as it may make them irritable or tired.
- Get involved in the child play and let it be the leader.
Strategies for Teaching Parents How to Reinforce the Behaviors at Home
Self-esteem refers to the belief in one's abilities. It is vital to teach young children this core behavior, especially those who have some kind of disability or weakness. Self-esteem helps young children understand their strengths and weaknesses (Rich, 1987). Children who believe in their ability to achieve are more likely to excel socially and academically than those who doubt themselves.
Strategies for teaching pre-school children self-esteem include:
- Ask children to state their perceived strengths and weaknesses, after which their teacher should try to demystify the children’s perceived weaknesses.
- Make adjustments in the teaching programs so as to accommodate children with various challenges.
- Create opportunities for children to expose their strengths and avoid victimizing them where they fail.
Pre-school children belong to a stage in which they are striving to be independent. Children at this stage show and assert the desire to do things on their own. This is tricky in both the school and home environment because of the risk involved in some activities (Entwistle and Alexander, 2000). Children should be encouraged to learn to do some things like dressing, eating or using the toilet on their own. Letting children do things on their own helps them become initiative and independent.
Strategies for teaching pre-school children self-help skills include:
- Provide children with appropriate opportunities to develop their self-help skills but pay close attention. For instance, children can be encouraged to eat on their own but should be offered assistance in cutting some food.
- Reward children when they are able to accomplish a task on their own.
- Create a routine so that activities taught become a habit. For instance, after visiting the toilet, children should be encouraged to wash their hands with minimal supervision.
Empowering children refers to the act of allowing them to operate more autonomously to some extent. Children should be encouraged to undertake tasks with minimal supervision. This can be done either individually or in groups.
Strategies for teaching pre-school children empowerment include:
- Inculcate high self-esteem in the children.
- Encourage children to stand for positive behavior, even when their peers go against them.
- Develop activities that enable children to become responsible.
- Allow children to participate in activities where they work with others to achieve a goal.
- Pro-Social Skills
Pro- social skills are vital for children’s language and emotional development. Studies have shown that children with developed pro-social skills tend to be more independent and cooperative than those who are not (Entwistle and Alexander, 2000). Pro-social skills also equip a child with the ability to interact with peers and adults in a socially acceptable way. It is, therefore, necessary for teachers to develop mechanisms that foster the development of pro-social skills in pre-school children.
Strategies for teaching pro-social skills to pre-school children include:
- Encourage children to participate in play. Play is one of the decisive factors that foster interaction and cooperation among children.
- Develop activities where children are supposed to make choices. The teacher should also include positive or negative consequences for every choice made.
- Allow children to take part in the conflict resolution.
Strategies for Teaching Parents how to Reinforce the Behavior at Home
Parents’ educators are bestowed with the task of equipping parents of pre-school children with the knowledge of making their children school ready (Small and Mather, 2009). Educators often make in-home visits to provide this education and make an assessment on whether the environment is conducive for learning or not. Generally, parents are taught on:
- Physical, cognitive and emotional development of their children.
- Positive parental practices and how to apply them.
- Methods of disciplining children without affecting their emotional and cognitive development negatively.
- How to reward positive behavior and encourage children to desist from negative behavior.
- Provide mentally stimulating environment for intellectual and cognitive development.
Pre-school children spend most of their time at home with parents and other family members. This has the implication that the family environment plays significant role in shaping a child’s future intellectual and social skills. The family-centered approach is meant to create an efficient parent-teacher partnership that ensures that positive learning environment is extended from school to home.