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Why Your Kids Paying Attention In School Will Make My Life Easier

This weekend I plunked down over five-hundred bucks at Costco for eggs, cling wrap, dog food and enough toilet paper for a small army. To make parting with that much money a little easier, the good folks at Costco offer me (actually everyone) samples of food and drink.

I always go right around lunchtime so I can fill up and avoid having to prepare at least one meal for the day. On this particular trip I was pleased to see that a kind young lady named Nellie was offering bite-size portions of carne asada on toothpicks. I pulled up my cart just as she was preparing the beef. I stood patiently behind an elderly man and his wife who had arrived just before me.

I couldn’t wait to grab my Mexican Costco treat, but the man kept letting others go before him. “After you,” “Go right ahead,” “You first.” Very kind gesture letting others go before him, but didn’t he realize that without my permission, he was also letting others go before me?

Finally, he moved in for the kill, grabbed a couple of meat toothpicks, and when I got to Nellie she informed me, “Sorry, all out, but if you just wait three more minutes…”

I lumbered away and instead grabbed a piece of mozzarella cheese on a stone ground cracker. I wanted meat.

See, here’s the deal. I teach third grade, and one of the things I tell my students is, “No letting your friends cut in front of you, unless you are last in line or unless you ask the permission of everyone else behind you.”

Parents think that the lessons children are taught in school are to benefit them, and most of the time they are, but there are many lessons that your children need to follow in order to make my life, and everyone else’s easier when they become adults.

So, here is a list of seven school lessons I want you to enforce at home so that my life will run smoother.

1. Learn Your Addition Facts
By third grade, kids should have mastered their addition facts (e.g. 5+9, 8+7). We teachers tell them it’s an important skill so they won’t have to use their fingers with higher math in the upper grades. In reality, we want them to grow up to know that when there are seventeen items in their shopping cart, they are not supposed to get into the “twelve items or less” express lane, especially not in front of us.

2. Read and Follow Directions
Teachers want their students to read the directions on their assignments, and once they’ve read and understand them, to follow them. Yes, that will help on college entrance exams and job applications, but it will also help me at my local gas station. There are arrows on the ground at my local gas station (by the way, arrows are the most basic of directions on the planet) directing drivers which way they are allowed to pull up to the pump. Inevitably, those kids who didn’t read and follow directions in school, end up coming in the wrong way, forcing me to wait even longer for my unleaded.

3. Don’t Run In The Hallways
Teachers are always yelling at kids to walk in the hallways, and most kids scan the area to be sure no adults are around, and then they run anyway. Punishment? “Go back and walk.” We tell them we don’t want anyone to get hurt (I actually saw a kid run in the hallway once and he plowed into a door that opened up right in front of him). But, these kids become those adults we scream at for speeding down a residential street where our children are playing on a summer evening.

4. Pay Attention
Teachers give directions. We model how to cut the paper, how to fill out the worksheet, how to stack the blocks, yet there are still those children who ask “how,” and when we ask why they don’t know, they respond, “I wasn’t paying attention.” These children seem to be the ones who grow up to bag my groceries at the local market. I can always tell the adults who didn’t pay attention in school when I find my loaf of bread flattened by a ham and half of my eggs broken under the weight of my watermelon. Pay attention, people!

5. Keep your Desk Organized
The problem with a disorganized desk in school is that students can’t find their assignments. Their homework gets sucked into the abyss that was once a desk. That means lost assignments, lost time, and redoing work. But, when these youngsters grow up, inevitably I will be behind them at the grocery store, and they can’t seem to find their checkbook or credit card. So, they dump out the contents of their purse, and sift through Kleenex, gum, and the homework they couldn’t find in seventh grade.

6. Stay Between The Lines
We give kids paper with lines that match their grade level. In kindergarten there’s maybe four lines on a page so these little guys have enough space to form their letters. As they mature, the lines get smaller, with the hope that one day they can write an essay on college-rule three-hole binder paper. You know who the kids are who never master writing between the lines? They’re the ones you get frustrated with in the parking lot who take up two parking spaces.

7. Take Turns
Schools are a great place for kids to learn to share, to be kind and to take turns. “I’ll go first, then you can go. Then, I’ll go again.” Right? Well, if everyone mastered this lesson in school, we wouldn’t have those folks who never let you merge into traffic. You know the ones. Well, they were once those kids who never let their friend have a turn on the playground.

As parents, we need to back up our kids’ teachers, not just for their sake, but for the sake of the adults who will be living in the world with them when they have grown. And, if you have ever come across an example of one of the above that has irked you terribly, good chance their parents never reinforced those lessons. Don’t be those parents. And, if you already are, you owe me a bite of carne asada.


Leon Scott Baxter's picture
America’s Relationship Guru

Leon Scott Baxter, “America’s Relationship Guru,” is the author of Secrets of Safety-Net Parenting and the founder of He’s the father of two girls, 12 and 16, and has taught elementary school for eighteen years.