Below is an essay that I wrote back in August 2014 and the NWF Daily News published it in their Guest Column before the 2014 school year began…and it bears repeating (with a couple of minor modifications).   Parents: the following is written to you with love.

Parents, before school begins, be your child’s first teacher…

Before summer is over and school opens again here in Okaloosa County in August, wouldn’t it be great to spend some extra quality time with your little angels?

For instance, you could teach (or reinforce) the everyday niceties of saying “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” etc.

You might be surprised to know how many parents rely on teachers (including after-school program teachers, counselors and tutors) to teach their little ones the things they should’ve/could’ve) been taught at home. This includes tying their shoes, washing their hands before eating, washing their hands after using the toilet, flushing said toilet, and more of the little things that make life easier for the rest of us.

Teachers are basically at school to teach our little pumpkins academics, such as reading, writing and arithmetic. They need all the time they have just to teach these basics while trying to keep peace and order.

Parents, you are your child’s first teacher.

It’s such a blessing to have a child, so please spend more time teaching your child, talking to your child and less time staring at a screen, including television, Smart Phones, computers, hand-held gadgets and all that other techie stuff. This heartfelt advice extends to moms and dads as well as the kiddies. It’s great to know how to use these electronic thingies, but we also need to teach our children how to engage in a coherent conversation with real live people.

I remember when my one and only was a toddler. I felt great joy in reading to her and teaching her how to read, how to count, how to recognize various animals and colors, how to tie her shoes and so many other things her little head could hold. It was fun…for the both of us!  

What could be more fun than seeing your children’s eyes light up when they know how to spell their own names? And to know that you’re the one who taught them?

My little one knew her own address, her telephone number, her grandma’s phone number and her New Jersey aunt’s phone number before she even began Kindergarten. I wanted that to be my “job”. She even had her own little Bible and other books such as: “Lewis Said … Lewis Did. I must’ve read “Lewis Said … Lewis Did” about a zillion times!

The time will come when your child will begin to hear and learn things on the streets and sometime in the schools, some of them not so good.

There are many lessons to teach a child, and a child learns best by example.
Have you ever seen a child watch her mom put on lipstick? She immediately mimics her movements, even without the lipstick.
Let your children see you reading on a regular basis and they’ll most likely want to read as well.
Patience is the key! Don’t expect your child to learn how to tie his shoe or spell her name correctly without trial and error.

Do expect your children to want to learn. Their little brains are like sponges. All things and everything can be a learning experience. When your child gives you a picture he colored, immediately say “Thank you.” He’ll learn manners by having you display them. Don’t expect him to just magically know. You, as the parent, should model good behavior; your child is watching you.

When your child begins school, as a rule, usually teachers teach without the kind of love that only a parent or grandparent can give. Children should feel loved, wanted and secure because without an atmosphere of love and support, it is much harder to teach a child anything.

When teaching your child the basic rules, be clear and consistent. If you constantly change the rules, your child will become confused and uncertain…and perhaps disobedient.
Rewards work, sometimes just a hug and a response such as “Good job!” goes a long way.

Discipline works too! Be consistent even when it feels easier to say, “I give up!” Don’t give up; it may seem easy now, but you’ll regret it later, perhaps when your child is older and REALLY out of control and some other person in authority takes control for you.

A good friend of mine is a retired juvenile justice probation officer, now a Teen Court judge. I met him many years ago as he spoke to a group of parents, telling them to spend more time with their children now so he wouldn’t have to spend time with them later.

Parents, take the time to teach your child. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.
Your child is a fragile gift from God…please handle with care. Be their first teacher.  It will pay off in the long run.


Nellie Bogar: Founder/CEO, Youth Village, Inc.