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Principled Principals

March 11, 2009

Everything I know about kindergarten, I learned in, um, kindergarten.  The same can be said about elementary school.  I learned to read, write, and I almost learned my times tables, but once I left, I never looked back.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I was asked to stand in as the interim principal for our church-sponsored elementary school.

I don’t know much about educashion, but I do know how to manage.  In fact, I’ve been heard to boldly proclaim that I could manage a McDonald’s, or a manufacturing plant.  I could manage people or materials.  Sure, there’d be a steep learning curve, but essentially management is management.  Well, I may be a bit arrogant in making that statement, but it is always fun to learn new career fields!

There are about 50 students at this school, kindergarten through the eighth grade.  In addition to the part-time kindergarten teacher, we have three other accredited faculty – and they are all awesome.  The majority of our kids come from the community.  Some from Christian backgrounds, but many are here simply for a quality educational experience in a safe environment.  It has really been fun seeing how this school operates.  I wish some of these teachers had taught at my school, when I was a kid.

We have students who are educationally challenged.  Some kids come from broken homes.  Some suffer from monetary, emotional, or social challenges.  We have tall kids, short kids, smiley kids, and sad kids.  Some of our students are eager to learn, and some are too cool for school.  All in all, my heart goes out to these children, these students, these kids – and the teens!

My heart goes out in particular to a few kids.  I’m struggling to put this into words, without violating anyone’s privacy.  I think the best way to do this is to write a list of “rules” that parents need to understand.  These go above and beyond the student handbook, the classroom requirements, or any other rule book that we could formally put together.  These are things that should be dictated by common sense, but as we all know, common sense is really all that common.  So, here are my rough principles for the education of your children:

Uncommon Sense:

  • Shower your kids with affection and affirmation.  As a parent, you can never go too far in building the esteem of your children.  If you don’t have time, or energy, to do this, reevaluate your priorities and cut out some other things.
  • Make sure your kids get enough sleep. No matter the cost, you, as the parent(s), need to make sure your kids get to bed on time and develop good discipline in this area.
  • Three balanced meals is not an option.  Breakfast really is the most important meal.  It is easy to see the kids who are not eating a complete (if any) breakfast.  They are drowsy, have a low attention span, and are easily overwhelmed by the stressors of the classroom.
  • Busyness is unnecessary.  Our busyness, and hence our family’s busyness, is a result of choices.  Choose to slow down, build margins into your schedule, and increase the quality of your time together.  Families that are busy, are more easily stressed.  Stressed parents pass their stress onto their kids.  Don’t be too busy to listen.  don’t be so stressed that you’re always directing, demanding, or demeaning your kids.
  • Show up at your children’s events.  Whether it is parent meetings, musical programs, or informational meetings.  Your kids know what you value, by your actions.  Your actions speak louder than words.  This applies to both parents – not just the one that draws the short straw.  And NOT just the one that has custody of the kids at the time of the event.  Your children will value what you value.
  • Get involved in their emotional struggles.  Dads, this particularly applies to you.  If your child is going through a tough time, or has experienced a troubling event, you need to show that child how important they are.  Postpone, or cancel, your business trip.  Take time off to attend counseling appointments with your child.  Make yourself available – don’t just expect your child’s mother to take on all the emotional support during this time.  Show your kid how important he/she is – be there.  Be present in body, mind, and spirit.
  • Set limits and expectations appropriately.  Your children will rise to the level of your expectations, and if you have low expectations, they’ll meet them.  It is their job to push the boundaries, and it’s your job to enforce them.  You’ve heard it before, but secure boundaries creates security in their souls.  If you have porous boundaries, not only can your kids escape your grasp, but they feel vulnerable to the scary stuff outside.
  • Don’t expect the school to make up for your lazy parenting skills.  Read books, participate, talk with other parents, join a community (e.g. parent/teacher, church, online, neighborhood, YMCA, or other tribe.)  Your network of support will help you know the norms and provides support for when you’re feeling weak.  The teachers I’m privileged to work with all care deeply about their students – but there is only so much they can do for them.  Many of them lay awake at night, worrying about your kids.
  • Work on your own stuff.  We all have wounds and scars from the battlefield of life.  Take care of those issues so you don’t pass them onto your kids.  Deal with your addictions, work on your resentments, deal with your frustrations, and grow holistically.  This is by far the #1 thing you can do for your kids!

If you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!  Post them in the comments and we can create a repository of helpful hints!

  1. Don Park permalink
    March 13, 2009 7:34 pm

    thank you for this post! they’re fantastic ideas and come from a big, caring heart.


  2. Jennifer permalink
    March 18, 2009 8:12 am

    Good stuff! I am blessed to know all the teachers and some of the students. As a parent, I feel a huge burden to do the things you suggest for my own kids (although not of school age yet.) If I was a teacher, I’m sure I would feel much the same way for my students and hope for his kind of parental responsibility .


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