As a parent of teenage boys I find myself pondering the question; how do we find middle ground between intruding too much on our children’s lives and denying them the chance to solve their own problems - and holding back for fear of being seen as interfering or bothering already busy teachers? Sarah Mosle called this “The Parent- Teacher Trap” when she wrote about it in the New York Times in 2013.
Here are some ideas from parents who have been there, done that, and survived the school years!
- Encourage your children to take the lead in sorting out difficulties with teachers. This helps children develop confidence and their own voice. Show them how you deal with your problems. Let them hear how you make a complaint or raise a question. Discuss how to be assertive without becoming unpleasant.
- Discuss with them how to use email and text messages only to convey simple information like appointments or scheduled absences or factual questions. For anything more significant, especially if they are annoyed or angry, it’s better to take a deep breath and speak in person. Conflicts can escalate in social messaging exchanges in ways that would never happen speaking face to face.
- Remind your children not to cc the principal or even their parents when emailing about routine issues. It’s disrespectful to everyone as it sends the message you don’t think there’s even a chance you can work this out on your own and that you do not trust the other person to take you seriously.
- Discuss with children the kind of commitments teachers have when they are not in the classroom. Some teachers tell their classes the times when they schedule answering emails and texts. No teacher can be expected to be on call 24 hours and children are more likely to get a prompt response if they respect other people’s time.
- Teach your children to immediately apologise if they are in the wrong. Many people don’t learn this simple lesson even into their adult life yet it is disarming and prevents further conflict.
- When there are real conflicts, discuss desired outcomes and how your child can achieve them. Sometimes too, they have to learn that even the best-presented case may not get the outcome they are seeking.
- Step in if your child is struggling to be heard or becoming frustrated. Teachers want their students to be happy learners.
- Sometimes parents - and teachers - need to take with a grain of salt occasional bellyaching, especially by adolescents working through issues with authority. The teenager, being a teenager, may not rank parenting skills much higher than teaching skills!
Mr Adrian Scott