Pro Tip: Parent Like a Teacher


We all struggle with our kids. Some days (or months. Or years.) seem like a constant battle of back and forth. We ask them to clean up, and they ignore us. They try to negotiate with us about later bedtimes or just “one more show.” We end up yelling a lot more than we would like because they just.won’t.listen. when we ask them to get their shoes on for the 15th time as we rush out the door for school. Parenting is no picnic but there is a way that some of those battles can be easily rectified if you change your parenting style; basically if you parent like a teacher.

Parent like a teacher? What does that mean? Well, teachers, especially teachers of younger children, have a special set of skills that help them to get twenty-five 5 year olds (or younger) to do what they are asking the very first time. These skills include things like singing songs, setting expectations, establishing routine, and making transition times easier by managing and recognizing each child’s needs. So why don’t we do that as parents?

Parenting Style: Parent Like a Teacher

“I hope little Johnny is being good in class. He’s such a handful at home!”
“Oh, he’s such an angel! He’s sweet and polite, and kind to all his friends.”
“This kid? Are you sure?”

If that conversation sounds familiar, you are not alone. Many times teachers have experiences with your child that is vastly different from your own. Much like adults, children are much more attentive, polite, and well-behaved with people whom they are unfamiliar. When they are with the people they love the most, they tend to show their true, less appropriate side of the personality (lucky us, huh?). As adults, we do the same thing with our spouses – we find ourselves getting in arguments with them that we would never pursue with another adult (again, lucky us!).

There are several things that teachers do that if parents would integrate into their own family may help quell some of the tantrums, negotiation tactics, and argumentative behavior of your child:

Think Like a Teacher

For many of us parents, when we see our child act out with negative behaviors (whether that is throwing a temper tantrum, not following directions, or simply acting inappropriately) we become frustrated and hot-headed. We yell, we reprimand, we put them in time out. But if you were walk into a classroom and see a teacher do this to a child acting the same way, what would you think?

Many times there are reasons behind why children are acting out. It could be as simple as their physical needs not being met: they’re hungry, they’re thirsty, or they are tired. Sometimes their emotional needs aren’t being met: they need some one-on-one time, they are feeling anxious, or they just need a hug. But as a parents we often forget to see our child’s actions as the result of something they need physically or emotionally. We just get frustrated and think, “Why are they being like this?” but we never really consider the reasons why.

Teachers view our children just as that – children. They recognize that there may be outlying factors as to why a child might be acting negatively. They aren’t quick to reprimand and they take the time to think about how they can best help their students. When you get frustrated with your child, think about how a teacher might react to them – slow down, take a minute, see your child as a child and not as someone set out to terrorize you.

Use Transitions

One of the biggest issues with disruptive behavior (i.e., throwing temper tantrums, ignoring instruction, negotiations) is that a child isn’t being guided through a transition from one activity to another. For example, we may say to a child, “Get your shoes on, please” and we expect them to simply stop what they are doing and put their shoes on their feet. But how often does that happen? Hardly ever. In fact, most mornings you can hear moms collectively screaming, “Would you just put your shoes on already?! We are late for school!”

One way teachers combat this period of transition, where they are asking children to stop one activity and engage in another one, is by prepping the field. They give their class a time frame for when the current activity will stop (i.e., “You have two minutes to finish your work” or “Three minutes until we line up for music”) so as to let the children prepare their minds for the change.

Once the time comes for the children to transition, a teacher will often use a defining action to stop the current activity. For example, she may flip the lights on and off a few times. She may use a rhythmic clap. She may say a certain phrase that her students know means to stop, look, and listen. This helps children have a definitive stopping point in their actions and helps them to get ready to transition to the next thing.

As the children are transitioning, a teacher may sing a song (i.e., the clean up song) or collectively remind her students as to what their goal is at the moment with step by step instructions (i.e., “Let’s put away our crayons in our pencil box, put our pencil box in our desk, and line up for art). These steps for transitioning can help students successfully navigate getting from one activity to the next without much fuss because they know what to expect and what they need to do next.

As a parent, however, we simply expect our child to do what we ask without guiding them through the process. If we would use transition practices like teachers such as setting expectations, defining actions to stop activities, or reminding children of their goals, we would find that children would respond better to our instructions.


One thing that children have in school that is not often found within the home is routine throughout their day. Each day a child is in school, a routine for their day is set. Oftentimes, teachers will even write their schedule on the board so the students know what activities are being done when. Routine can often help a child thrive. They crave routine and structure for their schedules, and knowing what comes next each day can make transitions that much easier.

Of course, as parents, we can’t reasonably manage the same exact schedule every single day our children are home. However, you can set routines for certain activities (i.e., when they come home from school they are to empty their backpack and put belongings in certain places) so as to help establish a known routine for certain times of the day.

Set Expectations

Another big teacher tip is to set expectations for your children. Before their class is to do something – walk down the hallway, complete an activity, go to an assembly – teachers will tell their students, “I expect you to be quiet, keep your hands to yourselves, and to listen politely while our guest is speaking.” Setting up expectations prior to an activity helps a child transition to the next thing as well as gives them a reminder as to how to behave.

Many times as parents we forget that a child doesn’t have as much social knowledge as we do. As adults, we know how to walk down a hallway, sit quietly, or listen to a guest speaker. But children are children. They don’t see the world as we do. We see a quiet hallway where people are working in the next room while they see a perfect place to run as fast as they possibly can. However, setting up those expectations even as a parent (i.e., “I expect you to stay close to me while we finish our shopping and to listen to my instructions”) a child is reminded as to what they should be doing because they are often not developed enough to think of it themselves.

Parenting like a teacher may seem silly but teachers tend to have quite a few tricks up their sleeves that help make being with kids all day long a little easier. Without these tips, teachers would have a chaotic classroom and there is no doubt that parents want to instill a level of calm in their homes as well. Utilizing these tips doesn’t mean that your children will all of a sudden change from wild hellions who you are convinced were sent to terrorize you to perfect angels. Children all have their moments of direct disobedience despite all of a parent (or teacher’s) best efforts. And as parents, we are going to get mad sometimes. Everyone does. And that happens when you are always with the same people. But parenting like a teacher can help make those times when you feel like pulling your hair out a little bit easier on everyone.

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