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How Teaching Strategies Impact Parenting

Jordan Catapano

Being a teacher doesn’t automatically make anyone a better parent. Parenting is in many ways entirely different from teaching, though occasionally we sense that certain aspects of one cross over into the other. To a certain degree, this was validated when I read Lisa Heffernan’s article in the New York Times, “Would a Different Job Make You a Different Parent?” which asserted that our careers ultimately impact our family interactions.

I don’t think that teachers’ children end up any smarter or better educated than others, though sometimes my friends have falsely attributed my own children’s talkative natures to my career as an English teacher. However, I do think there are a few techniques that teaching parents might grasp more intuitively than non-teaching counterparts. Here is a handful:

Letting Them do it by Themselves

It doesn’t take long before children demand to “Do by self!” Teachers know that the end goal is to ultimately get their children to, in fact, do things by themselves. It’s tempting to get the job done faster by lending a hand or offering hints right off the bat, but letting a child attempt, experiment, and even fail will serve them better in the long run toward mastering more complex skills. As teachers with time-tested teaching strategies under our belts, we may have an easier time letting our own children take a stab at independent tasks.

Rewards and Punishments

“If you do that one more time, then I’m going to …” How would you finish that phrase? Teachers are responsible for maintaining control of many children at once. We give warnings, follow through, and learned through years of classroom management and teaching strategies how to fine-tune our responses to inappropriate behavior. When it comes to dishing out discipline or providing rewards to our own kids, teaching parents may craft both a well-balanced and well-timed response more readily than others.

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Learning doesn’t usually happen in huge leaps. It’s a slow building process from one phase to the next. Teachers have the privilege of watching children build knowledge and skills throughout an entire year, again and again. This enables us to intuitively pinpoint a student’s current understanding and what they need in order to get to the next level. I think inadvertently, we apply this same intuition to the way we communicate and instruct our own children.

Everything is a Learning Opportunity

As one teacher told me early in my career: “Soon, everything becomes about teaching.” I didn’t really understand what she meant, until I realized how often I think about teaching my kids something at any free moment. We still have a blast with whatever we’re doing, but playtime for us is connected to learning. Whether building paper airplanes, wrestling, looking at spiders in the grass, washing the car, exploring the grocery store, building with Legos and blocks, or even watching a cartoon, my actions bend toward trying to make those casual moments into teachable ones. 

Sometimes I feel defeated coming home—I realize that being a teacher has caused me to spend my day worrying about other people’s children and left me with little energy to love my own. But equally, I believe that thinking like a teacher helps me make the most of the opportunities I do share with my children.

What do you think? How does teaching impact your parenting, for better or worse? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website

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