I volunteer at my children’s school a fair amount. I do it for a lot of reasons, but believe it or not, I actually enjoy spending time with school age kids. Most of the time. I complain about it and I’m often exhausted by it. Often times it’s thankless. Sometimes it’s downright appalling how badly you’re treated. Sometimes spending time with kids not your own makes you come home and appreciate the ones you’ve got a little more. After a few trips around the field trip block, there are a few things I’ve noticed, things your kid is doing or not doing. Because the majority of them are. Or aren’t as the case may be. Things that are easily fixed…and taught.
Teach your child to say please or thank you to the parent volunteering in their class or school. When I volunteer for a school event, it means I’m giving up time I could be doing something else. Napping, food shopping, trying to sell my novel, starting the next one. Doesn’t matter what. It means I’ve given up a portion of my day. Usually it means I’m doing it because no one else would. When a child demands, or don’t even bother to say please or thank you? You can be pretty sure I make sure they’re the last to get whatever it is I’m handing out. You may think younger kids are the worst offenders, but you’d be wrong. It’s the older ones who seem to have lost their manners with their baby teeth. And it’s most of them.
Teach your kids to listen to the adult volunteer in charge. Many kids talk over, ignore, and in some cases even mock the adult who is there to look out for them. The behavior ranges from rude to downright dangerous. If I’m responsible for your child on public transportation or outside of school grounds, you’d better make damn sure they know to listen to whatever I’m saying and the instructions I’m giving.
Teach your child to have realistic expectations, the old ‘you get what you get’ platitude. Not everyone is going to get their first choice. Not everyone is going to get what they like. Pitching a fit, ‘accidentally’ on purpose dropping it, or just plain lying gets your child nothing but a reputation as that kid.
Teach them to appreciate the fact that so many adults in their life are willing to give up their time to help out.
The one who brings cupcakes into class or chaperones a field trip to the recycling plant, the one who organizes a group gift for the teacher (and the six teacher’s aides, four coaches, and seventeen admin assistants who grease the wheels of your kid’s day)–they’re not doing it for the glory. Or the money. Make sure your child thanks them.
The one who plans a Halloween event, helps out with the stupid holiday craft or spends hours decorating a barren hall. No, volunteers don’t have to do it, though truth be told, sometimes the only thing standing between the planned field trip and a classroom full of disappointed kids is the one parent everyone knows will say yes. Your kids need to thank that person. You should too.
Your child should be pleasing and thanking just about everyone in their life considering how much is done for them. Not just a parent volunteer or two, but the person serving them lunch and the one cleaning up their mess (and trust me, it’s disgusting). The person who cleans the toilet five times a day because, well…kids often miss. The secretary who calls home and the guy who makes sure they don’t get run over in the morning.
Sometimes there is an event to say a formal thank you to all those people who keep your child’s day running smoothly. And that’s nice. But if you want to know the truth, it’s not even close to being enough. So teach your child to say please, to say thank you. To listen respect, and appreciate the people behind the scenes as well as the ones who don’t have to be there, but are anyway.
It goes a long way.