Dear Miss Allen

It is not uncommon for Crew to go to school without his lunch, his backpack, his homework, or his coat.  I have even kicked him out of the car before with no shoes on.  And this matted cowlick has left the house more than once.

crew hair mat

I didn’t want his teacher to think I was a lazy, slobby or uncaring parent.  I wanted her to know my parenting style is intentional and deliberate. So I decided to write a letter to his teacher this year and explain my motives and beliefs.

Here’s my letter:

Dear Miss Allen,

I just wanted to write you a letter about how I parent so hopefully you can understand Crew better this school year.

As a parent, I believe in providing structure and routine for my children. I try to set up my household so that my kids can succeed. We have a nice place to do homework with all the necessary supplies. Crew has plenty of time to do it each day. He is not overscheduled or overinvolved in after school activities. Crew goes to bed at approximately the same time every night. He is read to and tucked in. He sleeps 10-11 hours each night.  We wake up together as a family with plenty of time to get ready. I feed him a healthy (ish), homemade breakfast each morning. He has the same morning routine every day which includes — get dressed, clean room, make bed, brush teeth, comb hair, take vitamins, record reading and make lunch. He also has a morning routine checklist he can reference in case he forgets what he is supposed to do. He has a designated place for his toothbrush, his backpack, his coat, his homework and his shoes. Along with a lot of training and practice, this organized and consistent structure and routine is how I do my part as a parent.

But as a parent, I also believe in giving kids responsibility and independence and accountability. So I leave the rest up to Crew. I believe it is his job to get himself prepared and ready for the day and then out the door.  In the mornings I try not to nag and remind; I just announce the time: “30 minutes until we leave”, 20 minutes until we leave”, etc. to try and help him manage his time. I don’t brush his teeth for him or comb his hair (unless he asks me to help him and then I step in). I don’t check to see if he has his backpack or his lunch or his homework as we get in the car.  If he forgets something, I will most likely not bring it to him at school. These are his responsibilities.

There may be an exception here and there, but I figure it is better Crew learn responsibility now when the stakes are low, rather than in Jr. High or High School or college life when the consequences are much more severe.  I also feel like the less I take over his homework, his schedule and his appearance, the more he knows I trust him — the more he knows I think he is capable and competent — the more he realizes his own capacity.

So sometimes Crew may be late if he missed his ride or he might show up to school with messy hair, nasty breath or a stained shirt. He might not have his homework or his lunch.  In that case, he can always turn his homework in late or eat school lunch. His reading calendar may not be marked sufficiently. There is even a chance he might not be wearing any shoes or a coat in the dead of winter.

Don’t be alarmed. Crew is loved and cared for.  He has hot water and  hair gel.  He has a toothbrush and toothpaste.  He has matching clothes and a warm coat.  I don’t want you to worry that I am poor or neglectful.  I don’t want you to think I am lazy or non-caring. Rather I am trying to teach Crew independence and responsibility now so habits and expectations can be formed early as well.  I let him fail with small things so he can succeed with big things.  I step back so his confidence can grow.

Thanks for understanding where I am coming from as a parent and thanks for your continued patience with my little guy.

Best wishes,

Tiffany Erickson, Crew’s mom







12 thoughts on “Dear Miss Allen”

  1. Wow! This is what I needed to hear. Zoie needs this right about NOW! What I would like to hear is the response you got from the teacher 🙂
    Thanks as always Tiff!

    1. Lindsey, I did this all last year with Crew as well so it has been a long learning curve. But he is taking much more responsibility this year. Instead of “Mom, why didn’t you put my homework in my bag” he just says “I forgot my homework”. And he is forgetting things less and less. I have even heard him recognize out loud what he needs to remember. His teacher has been supportive and marks his papers late. He has gotten a few low grades because of lateness not knowledge. But like I said in the post, I would rather him feel the consequences of a low grade in 3rd grade than in 6th or 9th. I have had this philosophy with all my kids and I am reaping the benefits of it with Elle right now. She is so responsible, accountable and self motivated now that she makes homeschooling, piano, ballet, etc a breeze. She takes responsibility for all of her stuff. I attribute much of it to her personality, but also to years of training in the younger grades. It can be a long road, but it is worth it in the end. Good luck with Zoie! I am sure she at least wants to comb her hair:)

  2. Tiffany,
    Thank you for letting me know about Crew. Most of the days his hair looks great:)

    I appreciate you teaching him to be responsible. One of the best things a parent can do is to teach their child to be responsible at a young age. If parents do everything for their child they are hindering. Crew will learn fast that he’s the one responsible for himself.

    Thank you for teaching him to be in charge of himself and learn to be accountable. This is a great lesson to learn young so you’ll have a successful future. He has a great future a head of him! I love teaching Crew and I can tell he’s responsible and can take care of himself. He’s lucky to have you as a mom!

  3. Oh, if you were only the parent of all my students! 🙂

    Just wondering: are there any consequences at home if he gets low grades due to late assignements? Or does it bother HIM? I find that to be the kicker—if the kid doesn’t care and there are no repercussions at home for these things, it doesn’t change the responsibility quotient.

    1. Stacey & Colleen, to be honest I am not sure yet. I haven’t experienced apathy yet and I have learned to not say what I would do until I am actually in the moment. Life is always different inside the fight than outside looking in. But I would think that I would have certain expectations and if they didn’t meet them there would be consequences according to their currency – like no friends, video games, etc. until grades are up.

  4. Jared and I were just having this conversation about Luke. He’s pretty responsible until it comes to school work and giving it his all. He has a test today that he forgot to bring the stuff home to study for…oh well.

    I’m curious to your thoughts on Colleen’s comment…because I feel like that is where we are too. If the kid just doesn’t care, then what?

  5. Love this post! I have been trying to do the same things with my 4th grader. Just wondering what time you guys wake up or allow for getting ready in the mornings. I feel like I may be trying to have them do too much in too short of a time. Thanks!

    1. I wake the kids up at 8:00. We do scripture study from 8-8:15. Then they have about 15 minutes before breakfast to do some of their routine – usually clean room, make bed, and get dressed. Breakfast is served around 8:30. Then they have about 15 minutes to brush teeth, comb hair, get backpack, etc. We are out the door by 9:00. They have a responsibility (chore) each day and piano practice but they usually do this after school. However, there is time before school if they would just stop goofing off. It seems that they take as long as they have no matter if it is 15 minutes or 1 hour and 15 minutes. Good luck!

  6. Another great post 🙂 I really appreciate how you recognize the need for personal responsibility and set up your parenting style in a very deliberate way to facilitate that growth in your kids.

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