‘Be my Mum, not my teacher,’ I once heard a child say and it struck a chord. As parents, we are programmed to fix things for our children, to smooth their path and help them to succeed, but sometimes we should stand back and pick our role wisely.
It is tempting to become a surrogate teacher, trying out techniques for phonics and drilling them in spellings. I have even known parents write a first draft of an essay so that their child has a head start. But one day a child will have to function without parental help, so their role should be to offer support whilst making their offspring as independent as possible. If parents are not going to slip into the role of a teacher, they need to find other job descriptions such as researcher, timekeeper, resource provider and cheerleader.
Good researchers find things out, present information and stand back. They don’t nag and say, ‘Have you read it yet?’ A parent’s job may be to help find information on the web, dig out library books or find DVDs or revision guides.
Children with dyslexia have a reputation for being disorganised. This is partly because they do not have a great sense of time and often do not finish what they start. Parents should focus on getting them organised, to pack their school bag before they go to bed and to have a To Do list or timetable.
All parents are resource providers, starting with toys at a young age and progressing into the latest technology. E-readers and tablets allow colours and fonts to be changed, making it easier to read and laptops are great for creating assignments. Alongside the technology are all those essential items of stationery: ruler, pens, calculator, highlighters and so on which continue to be used in the classroom.
Finally and most importantly, parents must celebrate successes. Tom Pellereau, winner of The Apprentice in 2011, wrote the foreword to my book, How to Help your Dyslexic and Dyspraxic Child and says; “I also had great support from my parents who would always say ‘well done’ and ‘keep going.’ I used to make things and take them apart when I was a child and my Mum and Grandad encouraged me in this. I knew that they valued what I could do instead of always focusing on the things I was bad at. This helped me to become confident about my own abilities and I worked harder at the areas where I could succeed.”
There are many ways for parents to support their child. They really shouldn’t settle for the role of instructor when there are more productive roles. Children with dyslexia can have an uphill struggle at school and home needs to be a place where they recharge their batteries and have someone who is firmly in their corner.
Author: Sal McKeown is a freelance journalist and author of; How to Help your Dyslexic and Dyspraxic Child, published by Crimson Books.