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Parenting Tips from a Headteacher

09 October 2013

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning. That way they will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence” Carol Dweck

Twenty years ago, children viewed parents and teachers as fonts of all knowledge and looked to them for the answers to most questions.  These days, children have Google, Yahoo and Bing. In fact, the search engine Google answered more than a trillion questions last year. Does this mean that the process of inquiry has become obsolete? Just the opposite in fact.

When asked questions by your child, the key to developing them as inquisitive learners is to foster and encourage inquiring minds. Instead of handing your child the tablet or directing them to the laptop, it is important to find the time for conversation. It is essential that adults encourage and challenge children to think more broadly and seek further knowledge. With the mountain of information available at the touch of a button, we must teach them, through discussion and questioning to identify, explain and be curious to discover their own answer to their questions.

A significant amount of a child’s waking hours are spent outside of school. Questioning allows children to develop their understanding, question their hypothesis and seek a range of solutions to problems. It is particularly important to use open-ended questions as these invite children to add detail to their response while also encouraging them to think deeper. For example, a simple afternoon spent gardening can turn into an amazing few hours of scientific discovery. Using discussion and questioning to explore bugs, weather, seasons, seed germination, soils, light exposure, compost, organic versus man-made fertilizers, life cycles and numerous other topics is the key to the creation of critical and reflective learners.

Since the existence of schools, parents around the world have been asking their children the same question, “What did you do today?”  When your children are younger you will often receive a full answer to this with examples of what they learned and with whom they played. However, as they grow in maturity and metamorphose into that strangest of human beings, the teenager, the ability to converse and reflect on anything that happened in the previous 24 hours for may comes down to a mere grunt. The best advice I can give you as a Headteacher is to ask this question instead “What did you learn today?”  It may take your child a few days to be able to answer the question, but they will soon be able to answer with some degree of reflection. This can lead to deeper discussions and allow them to build on the learning and knowledge that they acquired at school that day. Your child will soon be in school thinking about what they have learnt so that they can share it with you in the evening. Try it at the dinner table tonight and if you do not receive a response on the first attempt, keep trying. You may be surprised what happens after a few days of your persistence. Keep asking and you will receive some really interesting feedback.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Albert Einstein

C.S. Watt
Head of Primary
The British School, Warsaw