Yes, Your Child

Young boy in front of chalkboard with devil horns

It’s important to work with, not against, your child’s teacher when it comes to behavior problems.
Image: Shutterstock

Every teacher has had this moment: they’ve documented troublesome behavior in a child (pushing, swearing, biting, slacking, what-have-you), done what they could in class to alleviate it, but now it’s time to take it to the child’s parent. So they call a conference, and the parents show up. Teacher lays out the details, wanting a dialogue to brainstorm ways to help get past this obstacle, only to run into the brick wall of parental denial.

My child wouldn’t do that.

You must be exaggerating.

The other kid is lying.

Not my child.

It’s hard to get a report that your child is behaving poorly at school. It’s easy to feel embarrassed, to get defensive and circle the wagons against external judgment. But the teacher isn’t external to anything.

Your child’s teacher spends almost as much of the waking day with your child as you do. Their raising is in no small part in their hands. They can’t do the job without a certain level of trust and cooperation from parents. And they know, if they’re any kind of a good teacher, that kids don’t often behave the same at school as they do at home.

Your darling who helps Grandma ball her yarn on weekends can easily be the same girl who won’t stop talking during class-time. It’s not a dichotomy that your son who sits so quietly next to you at church pushes other kids off the swings to make his friends laugh. There are all sorts of factors in play at school that affect behavior in ways you don’t see at home, most of them social.

You see how your child acts in family settings, and they know you are seeing them. That influences how they behave. The version you get is not any more “default” or intrinsic to their nature than what their teacher is telling you they see, so give the teacher a little benefit of the doubt.

Anticipating the argument that not all teachers have the child’s best interest at heart, not all teachers are good or benign, that you had a teacher once who had it in for you….Yes. Those teachers exist. But no teacher has ever gone to work and thought, “You know what I want to spend my time doing after school today? Pissing off Timmy’s parents.” If they are bringing their concerns to you, treat them as valid. Consider your child’s side of the story, but do not just brush off the teacher’s. If you close off the door of communication between you and your child’s teacher, you are losing access to a large part of your child’s life and needs.

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