Part 2 – Supporting Parents
So, what are parents saying about virtual online learning? Here is a sampling…
“I love having the kids home when I’m working from home because my husband never leaves his home office. But he is getting tired of having all of us around all day because I think he enjoyed a quiet home to work from home!”
“My son is thriving without all the social pressures and stress of in-person group work. His marks have gone way up. On the other hand, my daughter has multiple screens going at one time, so she can chat with her classmates while doing work. (the teacher allows/encourages this) because she finds it so isolating to not have kids around. She does better when she is in a breakout room doing a group assignment.”
“I would love for the cameras to be off. I never know if I’m visible in the background.”
“I think online only works for certain subjects and certain kids. My son is struggling hard with this medium.”
So, let’s take a look at how our four Personality Dimensions might approach the parenting role as it relates to virtual learning. We will explore some common themes such as:
- What is the role of the parent in supporting their child?
- How do you juggle on-line school, working from home and maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle?
- Will you need to address physical changes in your house to support schooling at home?
Organized Gold parents are all about belonging, through duty and responsibility. Family is very important to them, so the new reality of learning from home might seem to be a bonus – more time to spend with the kids. But, because these parents have a need to be useful, they might start to interfere and want to help out a bit too much! As they are naturally organized, prepared, helpful and reliable, Organized Gold parents may want to do some micromanaging, rather than letting their child follow the directions of the teacher. So, an appropriate balance must be discovered – somewhere between the “Sage on the Stage” and the “Guide on the Side”. Some school boards have produced excellent resource guidelines for supporting distance learning at home. As a former Peel District School Board principal, I appreciate what this board has developed: https://www.peelschools.org/parents/helpyourchild/parentdistancelearning/Pages/default.aspx
You may also wish to visit: https://www.publicboard.ca/school/Agency/Documents/Parent%20Guide%20for%20Virtual%20Learning.pdf
Finding that middle ground depends not only on the personality of the parent, but also on that of the child. By school age, most parents have discovered (often through trail and error), what works well and what to avoid. If this is the case, this is not the time to change direction and alter tactics. If anything, your child needs to see even more of that stability and steadfastness. For the Organized Gold parent, this is not a huge ask, as they are naturally inclined to maintain traditions, believe in policy and procedure and are always prepared.
As an Organized Gold parent, you can support your child’s learning by helping them manage some of the “non-academic” things, such as providing an appropriate learning space that complements their personality, helping them manage time effectively, and being an active listener to understand how they are dealing with virtual learning. Clue into their character strengths and let them know that they are appreciated and coping with a new reality.
But wait a minute! “What about my needs as an Organized Gold parent? How do I cope and find the balance between my work, my kid’s schooling, and being a parent?”
Well, first of all, and this applies to all Dimensions, you are the parent! You are the adult; you have the responsibility clearly on your shoulders. And, no denying it, life can be tough! I have always advocated “parent to your child’s personality”. If you can do this, if you truly understand what makes your child “tick” (and this is why we use Personality Dimensions®), your anxiety will be diminished greatly. You will begin to focus more on your child and less on yourself. Your child will start to thrive and you will reap the rewards of this stronger relationship which will help define your new role, resulting in a more balanced approach to issues as they emerge.
Final words for the Organized Gold parent:
- You are service-oriented – supporting your child’s schooling is a win-win for you.
- You respect authority and rules – school is one of society’s most structured organizations – embrace it fully.
- You are patient, optimistic and cooperative – you will see this project through to successful completion.
The Authentic Blue parent will look at the challenges of virtual learning through a different lens. These folks are all about relationships and self actualization. Because they are people oriented and relate well to others, they may tend to become “smother mothers” or “doting dads” if allowed to dominate the learning environment. They will instinctively want to help their child create a comfortable learning space with opportunities for creative expression, which is fine if that matches the child’s approach to schooling. But some kids will learn in a more cluttered environment, requiring many “distractions” to stimulate them as they bounce from thought to thought triggered by something the teacher or a classmate says. Others may prefer a sparsely furnished space with only a few personally important items, allowing them to dig deeply into concepts and have time to process information. So, provide the essentials for learning, and discover what else the child may want to help them learn more effectively.
Authentic Blue parents can be excellent motivators and strong conflict mediators. These skills are critical as we all develop our online technology prowess, especially if you have younger children who may require some assistance. Even if you can’t solve the technology issues, you do have good intuition and imagination to provide alternative solutions and help scaffold their learning. Older children may be more frustrated by some instructional methods, content, timelines and marks, and your sensitivity to their needs and patient listening will be appreciated. Generally, the older the child, the less reliant they will be on your direct intervention. As an Authentic Blue personality, it may be challenging to learn to “back off”, as your natural inclination is to mediate and seek harmonious solutions. Your parental role, over time, is to encourage your child’s healthy growth and development – physical health and mental health.
I hear Authentic Blue parents say: “I feel guilty for not doing enough to help my child.” Realize that guilt is a trap! Turn this around by looking to your strengths of sensitivity, optimism and sincerity to re-affirm the positive role modelling you are doing for your child.
Final words for the Authentic Blue parent:
- You thrive on being involved with people – stay connected with your child by seeking a variety of interactive activities to lessen the amount of screen time, thereby building stronger interpersonal relationships.
- You are flexible – respect the learning style of your child and adapt your expectations accordingly.
- All learners thrive on praise and recognition (both for effort and product) – discover different ways to compliment your child’s academic progress in the world of virtual learning.
The Resourceful Orange parent will most likely approach online learning in a much different fashion, as your core needs are freedom, activity and variety! You often live life like an exclamation mark – action-oriented as you multi-task. Having your child spend many hours a day in front of a screen, with little activity, may frustrate you. But, as the moniker states, you are resourceful and will take initiative. What might this look like? Good teachers know that lengthy periods spent in a more passive learning situation yields scant results; they know how to mix things up and introduce active responses into their lesson plans. Maybe have your child let you know when this is happening, and you could join them in the activity, thereby strengthening the parent-child relationship. Your personality trait of being easy-going and entertaining will be a real support if your child struggles with lessons that may drag on longer than their attention span permits. So, be creative. Think outside the box! You are as natural at this.
With the technological challenges of virtual learning, you may tend to become quickly frustrated (but fortunately that often doesn’t last very long) if the learning platform crashes. One solution – do something completely different with your child. Your strength of thinking quickly on your feet can be very beneficial, as you thrive in challenging situations that pop up unexpectedly. When you do so, try to involve your child in the decision-making process. You will probably have a number of great ideas, but give them the opportunity to choose and watch the buy-in increase dramatically. Good learning is a partnership: student-teacher-parent.
A word of caution, though, to the Resourceful Orange parent; there are three other personality styles and your child may be quite different from you. Of course, each one of us is a unique blend with many strengths that need to be recognized and encouraged. Understanding the specific personality traits of your child is foundational to building experiences that will amplify their learning. And this is where you can excel – you enjoy looking for and trying new things. Experiment with those that you feel with help develop your child’s character. All parents are well served if they “parent to the child’s personality”.
Final words for the Resourceful Orange parent:
- Wear your optimism “on your sleeve” when supporting the educational journey of your child (of any age). As Helen Keller said; “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
- You enjoy improvising. Virtual learning will provide you with many opportunities to use that skill. You may want to keep a journal or diary of your successes.
- While you may have many solutions to various situations, try to take enough time to evaluate the potential effectiveness of each, and then, implement.
And finally, I address those parents who identify as Inquiring Green. I deliberately have left your personality group to the end of this blog, because your core need is knowledge and competence. Hopefully, you have read through the information about the other personality dimensions and have already increased your knowledge base somewhat. Congratulations!
Remember the parent who commented; “My son is thriving without all the social pressures and stress of in-person group work.” You may identify with that statement as you may prefer independence and private time. Online learning may be an ideal medium for you – but is it really? You may be questioning the competency of the teacher in using the technology platform, or in conveying the information to your child in a timely manner. You may be focused on the big picture of learning and the pandemic and what lies ahead. Your ability to analyze and gather data may be overwhelming as you do not see the progress you may have expected.
Fortunately, the Inquiring Green personality is well suited to meet these challenges and frustrations. You are innovative, determined and creative. You can develop multiple solutions and chose the best route forward, as you are a strategic thinker. In fact, you often enjoy problems that challenge your intellect and reasoning ability. So, use this to full advantage as a parent supporting your child who may have questions about virtual learning. That said, remember that your child’s personality may be quite different than yours. They may not want a problem solved, but rather, just some reassurance that they are doing well, or maybe just a big hug!
Finally, a question for our Inquiring Green folks:
What is your parenting personality? How do you encourage your child? Do you parent from an Inquiring Green perspective, a Resourceful Orange perspective, an Authentic Blue perspective, or an Organized Gold perspective?
As you know, we are all plaid – a truly unique blend of our personality composition. We all are inclined to act and communicate is certain ways. To truly support and encourage you child during these challenging times, especially with their online learning, “parent to your child’s personality”.
Wayne Jones, M.Ed. is an experienced educator, having taught students from Kindergarten through secondary school as well as adult education. Wayne has been a principal in the Peel District School Board and is currently a faculty advisor for Nipissing University. Wayne draws on over 30 years educational practice and numerous life experiences to enrich his writing and workshop presentations. A proud parent of two, with four grandchildren, he enjoys spending quality time with family; biking, hiking, running, and attending live arts productions. His passion for music and athletics fuels an active, healthy lifestyle.