15 Biggest Back-to-School Mistakes Parents Are Always Making

Stick to the school supplies on the list!

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Even though it comes like clockwork at the end of every summer, no parent ever seems to be completely prepared for back-to-school season. Come the end of August, moms and dads can be seen rushing through the aisles of Staples and Barnes & Noble, scrambling to pick up last-minute school supplies and books from reading lists that were meant to be started months ago.

If you want to avoid sending your kids off to school unprepared or making more work for yourself once school starts back up, then take note of the biggest blunders parents usually make at the start of the school year.

1
They don't make their children read over the summer.

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Summer may be fun, but it's no time to slack on keeping children engaged—especially when it comes to reading. Alyce Appleman, a special education teacher from New York, encourages parents to read alongside their children—not just to motivate them, but also to make sure that they aren't stalling on their mandatory summer reading.

"Teachers often have assignments that pertain to summer reading, and if the student hasn't done it, then they will be starting off the year behind the eight ball and other work will become overwhelming very fast," she says.

2
They don't prepare for bedtimes.

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The last thing you want on the first day of school is a tired child who was up the night before until 11 p.m. That's why Appleman says not moving bedtimes back days in advance is one of the worst mistakes a parent can make because then "their kids are exhausted for the first few days of school."

3
They buy cute or trendy supplies.

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Buying supplies just because they're cute or trendy doesn't help your child, especially if they don't fulfill the requirements on the supply list. That's why Danielle Daniels, a first grade teacher from South Carolina, warns against buying some items over others simply because they look or sound better.

"Don't get the decorative pencils covered in plastic film, they don't usually sharpen well," she says. "Also, dry erase markers that are not Expo markers don't always erase well. Crayola crayons really do work the best, and cheap glue sticks don't always work well. These are the things where the brand, or type, really does matter."

4
They don't keep the receipt.

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Chances are that your kid is going to show up to the first day of school with supplies that they just don't need. That's why you need to keep your receipts. This will allow you to return any items you don't need and replace them with the ones you do—without spending extra money.

5
They aren't present for their child.

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Parents should make a point to meet with their child's teachers at the beginning of the year and show up to any back-to-school events, both to check in on their child's progress and to get to know their kid's teachers. According to a North Carolina State University study, when parents are more involved and engaged in their child's school life, children actually perform better academically.

6
They project their own fears onto their child.

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The start of the school year can be a scary time for a child and an anxious parent. However, Lakiesha Russell, a licensed professional counselor with The Evolving Chair, cautions parents against projecting their own worries onto their child.

"Sometimes parents may find themselves a bit more anxious for their child to perform well or make a good impression and even be a high achiever," she says. "It's encouraged for parents to reflect where that anxiety is coming from and process it with a therapist or even a friend."

7
They try to text or call their child during the school day.

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You may be used to reaching your child at any time of the day via cell phone during the summer, but don't let that habit slide into the school year. Many schools have a no cell phone policy, and attempting to communicate with your child during the day could end up getting them in a lot of trouble. If something needs to be addressed, email the teacher, or, if it is urgent, call the front office.

8
They wait to ask questions.

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If you're not sure what school supplies to buy, ask. If your child tells you they have no homework and you're not positive about that, ask. Don't wait until the end of the year to voice concerns or ask questions. Communicating with your child's teacher at the beginning of the school year not only allows you to ease any personal worries, but also sets a respectful and engaged precedent between you and the teacher.

9
They wait to find after-school care.

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Between the demands of parents' work schedules and a new school schedule, many moms and dads have to seek out after-school care. And if you're in this boat, don't wait until the last-minute, warns Denise Gilmore-McPherson, head of partnerships for childcare platform Sittercity.

"With the start of school in the coming months, there is a high chance that parents' care needs will be shifting soon," she says. "And hiring a school-year sitter has been known to be a major source of stress for many parents, especially if they start searching too late."

10
They don't go over after-school transportation.

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While you may know how your child is supposed to head home, they won't know unless you relay this information. Going over travel routes, bus stops, and rider pick-up information with your child multiple times before the first day of school can ensure proper preparation and make sure your child makes it home safe and sound.

11
They purchase back-to-school clothing that doesn't follow the dress code.

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Of course, your child doesn't have to wear a parka to school in the middle of September, but they should still be mindful of the dress code when shopping for back-to-school clothes. As a general rule of thumb, most schools recommend shorts that fall just above the knee and tank tops are not typically allowed. Making these shopping choices ahead of time assures your child won't get in trouble and that you won't be racing back in the middle of the day to bring them a change of clothes.

12
They don't sign up for the necessary technology platforms.

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Modern technology can make a parent's life way easier—but only if they actually use it. Many teachers use mass-messaging apps like Remind, ClassDojo, or ClassTag to easily communicate with students and parents, so make sure to sign up for whatever service your child's teacher is using. And most schools use services like Blackboard or PowerSchool to give parents easy access to their kid's grades and progress, so don't forget to sign up for those as well.

13
They micro-manage.

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Parents, you can't do everything for your child, no matter how hard you try. And quite frankly, it might be better for your offspring if you give them some space: A recent National University of Singapore study revealed that parents who micro-manage may actually be harming their child's success.

"When parents become intrusive in their children's lives, it may signal to the children that what they do is never good enough. As a result, the child may become afraid of making the slightest mistake and will blame himself or herself for not being 'perfect'. Over time, such behavior, known as maladaptive perfectionism, may be detrimental to the child's well-being as it increases the risk of the child developing symptoms of depression, anxiety and even suicide in very serious cases," said Ryan Hong, an assistant professor who led the study.

14
They speak ill of school staff in front of their children.

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Even if you don't see eye-to-eye with certain teachers or faculty members, be wary of spreading those views to your child. Your son or daughter needs the opportunity to form their own opinions, and letting them in on your personal feelings might sway them to be less respectful of those staff members, which can lead to an unproductive learning environment.

Not only that, but according to a University of Missouri study, if a teacher has a positive relationship with a parent, they're typically more willing to go the extra mile for that parent's child. So, putting aside your own personal feelings—if they're negative, at least—can contribute to a better education for your child.

15
They let their kids miss days at the start of the year.

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The beginning of the school year is an important time for both teacher and student. And yet, according to third grade South Carolina teacher Haley Sparks Koon, some parents don't make their children go to school for the first few days for one reason or another. She urges parents to register their child prior to the first day and not to schedule vacations that overlap with the start of the school year.

"Parents often think that the students aren't doing anything academic those days. However, especially in elementary school, the first few days and weeks are crucial to setting up classroom rules, expectations, and allowing time for the kids to make new friends. If kids miss those first few days, they miss all of that and the teacher's job becomes all the more difficult when a new student is introduced," she says. And for more ways to prepare for back-to-school season, check out these 15 Things You Should Never Do at a School Function.

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Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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