The parent portal – It’s a helicopter parent’s dream! Wondering what your child has to do for homework? Good news! You don’t need to teach your children to be responsible, organized or trustworthy. Schools are using websites that allow teachers to post homework assignments online so you can be your child’s safety net. Concerned about your child’s marking period grade? Well - have we got instant gratification for you! Teachers grade tests & quizzes and post the information online for you to monitor. These online services are being used for all grades from early learners in kindergarten through graduating seniors in high school. I recently attended Back to School night at my son’s high school. He is a junior – 16 years old. Several of his teachers implored us to sign onto the parent website every day and stay on our children. No. I refuse. I am proudly not that mom. The parent portals are signaling the death of personal responsibility and I’m that mean mom who won’t participate in my child’s responsibilities becoming my own. I will not be my son’s personal secretary. I have my responsibilities and so do my children.
As an early childhood educator, it is my job to teach basic social, emotional and self-help skills to children. We teach them to take pride in performing tasks independently. Children are congratulated and encouraged to get dressed, use the toilet, wash their hands, put their items in their storage places, be responsible for the care of their possessions and take pride in what they can do without assistance. It is the adults’ job – caregivers and parents – to teach them to act independently and take pride in their accomplishments. The next steps are going to elementary school where they learn to be responsible for assignments, take pride in trying their hardest and find that sometimes their mistakes cause consequences. Parents today are being encouraged to watch their every move, without lessons about trust and responsibility. If we monitor them so closely, how will they learn to be responsible without us?
Independence is the goal of parenting. We raise children so that they will leave us. It is beyond my comprehension how high school teachers think children will succeed in college if their parents have been monitoring their every move. I don’t understand how children who have never had to be responsible for themselves will be able to function in a workplace where Mommy & Daddy cannot monitor their work responsibilities. I recognize that some children have difficulty with organizational skills. They should be taught strategies so they will be able to function when they get older. Having parents function for them does not teach them how to deal with their challenges.
I am convinced that the proliferation of the parent portals are the result of the emotion that drives so many of our actions – fear. We are living in an increasingly competitive world and parents are afraid that their children will not measure up. We have forgotten that children all have strengths & weaknesses and they don’t need to excel at everything. At the same time, students are afraid that they will not perform well on the plethora of standardized tests and will be embarrassed or placed in classes in which they do not belong. I have seen students incessantly checking their grades to see if the latest quiz changed their overall grade by any fraction of a point. It’s madness.
As a parent, I object to having communication about my child so coldly plopped into my lap. When my child is struggling, I’d like a phone call or email or note. I want to know why the teacher perceives my child is having the issue. I do not want to hear, “You should be checking the portal.” The portal cannot tell me about human interaction. I need the human to tell me if my child seems distracted, frustrated or confused.
What would happen if we all just said, “No. I want to teach my child to be trustworthy and responsible”? It’s possible that your child might not complete every homework assignment. Some grades may slip. Better that they learn the cause and effect of being responsible while they are young. We do not do our children any favors by ensuring that they never slip, fall, make a mistake or fail. I have learned so much from my mistakes. Haven’t you? I remember how it felt to disappoint a teacher and then my parents. It wasn’t enjoyable and I learned to meet my responsibilities because it made my life easier and I was proud. I remember my father saying that all people have to earn trust. He asked about my grades and I told him so there were never any surprises.
Let’s give our children a chance to earn trust, feel pride in themselves and stand on their own two feet. When technology deprives our children of the most basic lessons they will need to be successful, independent adults, it is being misused. Sometimes, we are actually better off without every bit of information at our fingertips._____________________________________________________________________________
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