Feelings Are Real
So the first thing NOT to do is to say something like “Oh no she doesn’t Honey”. That can backfire. While it may be true that the problem could be nothing, this sort of statement negates your child’s feelings and will probably make it difficult to move forward. So instead say something like, “oh that must feel terrible, what did she do to make you feel that way?” Then listen, and start your investigation as to what’s really happening. Just make sure to keep a very open mind. There are many possibilities
So let's go over the possibilities of what it could be. Maybe there is a reason for this that is not so obvious. And maybe there is an easy solution. Maybe not, but let’s see.
Possibility 1 - The Teacher Actually Hates Your Child
So the first possibility is that the teacher really does hate your child. Maybe they have been soured by the bureaucracy of the school system. Or they really just needed to retire like 20 years ago. They hate their job and they take it out on your child.
If this is the case then you should really consider removing your child from the situation. Your child’s protection is the most important thing.
That situation is actually pretty uncommon. It happens. We’ve all seen youtube videos and news stories of horrific things teachers have done. Like calling children horrible names. Pepper spraying them. Losing their temper. Locking them into the classroom. Throwing things or breaking things. Shaming them by saying things like “You belong in the stupid class”
But those behaviors are
- Pretty rare and
- Probably pretty obvious if it is happening.
So let’s look at the other possibilities.
Possibility 2- Overworked Teachers
The second, more likely situation is that the teacher does care. They got into this job because they love helping children. And that’s still true. But they get no support from the school system. No supplies. Outdated textbooks. Overloaded classrooms. Pay cuts. And various other problems associated with being a part of such a large bureaucracy.
One teacher was quoted as saying.
“Teaching is like a bad marriage, you never get your needs met but you stay in it for the kids”
Pretty powerful words. Teachers are suffering. These last few years have been very difficult. To say the least. And it has hit teachers hard. If they have stayed on as teachers they are likely close to burnout. They are trying. But they are overloaded. And usually with very little help.
In this case the teacher just doesn’t have the time to give your child the attention they need. So they may throw extra homework at them. Or come across as a little short. Their frustrated that they can’t help like they want to and since they really do care this affects them very badly.
Try to figure out if this is the case. If it is, the first thing you might try is empathy. Let them know that you see what is going on. Help them in any way you can. Get on their side of the table and become a team member. When someone knows you care, it can really change the whole dynamics. Not only will that help them in their job but you and your child will stand out.
Empathy Towards Teachers
Remember, every other parent is probably making their life worse. Making demands. Complaining and criticizing. Just a little empathy could make a huge difference. The power of just a few kind words, is, well amazing.
You may still, in the end, need to remove your child if their education is suffering. But we recommend trying a little empathy first. Heck, bring them some cookies. Or an apple! Show that you care and that will help them keep caring.
And here’s a bonus tip for this situation.
Do They Like Anything About Their Teacher?
Talk to your child and find out if there is something that the child DOES like about the teacher. It will probably take a little digging but keep at it and you’re child will likely come up with something eventually. Talk about that thing. Try to put more focus on it. And then, if there is some way your child can relay that to the teacher that’s going to help in a big way. As a second best you can relay it in some way. That might be just the thing needed to get things back on the right track. You, your child, and the teacher could all be on the same team.
Does the Teacher Really Hate Your Child?
Possibility 3 - Low Self-Esteem
The third possibility is that your child is actually being treated well. Maybe with a stern hand. But with their best interest at heart and in a caring way. But your child is perceiving that they are being singled out.
A common reason for this is low self-esteem. When we have low self-esteem we see everything through a different lens. Things that mean nothing may be perceived as a threat.
Children in this situation can become overly emotional. If this is a possibility then I would encourage you to watch our full-length documentary on the subject called “The Overly Emotional Child”. It can be found on Amazon Prime Video and other major movie platforms.
Low self-esteem and low self-confidence can happen due to several possible causes. It could be a learning struggle. And in most cases, the behavior that expresses this low self-esteem gets noticed long before the learning struggle. The learning struggle can go on for years undiscovered but continues to cause damage to your child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
If this is a possibility observe your child closely. Do they struggle with certain types of homework? Does their behavior change at certain times of the day? Around certain activities?
Start there and also use your parental spidey sense. Parents can be very intuitive. Watch for little clues that lead you to an answer to what is really going on. You might be surprised by what you find.
Possibility 4 - A Combo
The fourth possibility is sort of a combination of the last two. Your child learns differently or struggles with certain things and the teacher is way too overwhelmed to give your child the specialized help that they need.
Of all of the possibilities, this is the most likely. If your wondering about that watch our video on types of learning disabilities. It may help you recognize a problem.
Possibility 5 - Personality Clash With Teacher
And the fifth possibility?, It is possible that your child and the teacher just have personalities that won’t mesh. As long as your child is getting their educational needs met in a kind and empathetic manner then a little personality clashing might be okay. It might be an opportunity to teach your child to deal with these situations. They do come up in life at some point. Talk to them about going a little overboard in their efforts in class. Trying to get the best grades possible. In this way, they are handling it themselves and because of that, feeling empowered. * If the situation is not too terrible, this might be the best approach. Talk to your child about it each day. Ask about any progress made. Tiny things matter. This way you can monitor and encourage as well as feel comfortable that you don’t need to step in. There’s a time for mama bear but if baby bear can handle it alone then that’s a pretty big deal. There’s a possibility for learning and growth here. It’s possible that this could thelp your child develop an amazing people management skill that could be useful for a lifetime.
You might work with your child to make a list of things they do like about the teacher. Add to it when you can. This will get them to notice the positive more. It can also resolve black-and-white thinking. Nobody is all bad, or all good. And, it’s possible, that when they start thinking more positively the teacher will too.
Possibilty 6 - Is It Bullying
If the situation seems to be more about school itself rather than a specific teacher, first make sure that no bullying is going on, then consider talking to your child about some small goal setting. It doesn’t have to be academic in nature. Maybe something like making more friends or participating in some activity. This can help your child think more positively about school in general.
If the situation seems beyond all of this then you’ll have to step in of course. A simple phone call to get the teacher's point of view may be enough. Assume good intent here. Go in treating the teacher as an ally. You may learn something that can be easily addressed.
Another step is to schedule a time to monitor the classroom. Observe what is really going on. Of course everything is different when observed but it should still help.
Meeting with the Teacher
If you have to schedule a meeting with the teacher then write out your goals first. These goals should be about gathering data. What questions will you ask? What would be the most beneficial tone? How are staff-student relational issues normally handled at the school?
Also what data will you provide? Think about things like, are there specific times when this issue comes up? Around test time. Certain subjects? Monday? How often? When did it start?
And best of all, how can you help. This may initiate a short brainstorming session with the teacher. You can then try out strategies and monitor.
If you are anxious going in don’t be afraid to say it. Something like, “Hey I’m a little anxious about this. So I could seem a little on edge, but I want the best for all of us”
And before leaving set a follow-up plan. When will you talk again? How will you know if there is progress?
If all else fails, then you’ll need to go up a level. Speak to the school principal. But don’t lose hope here. It still doesn’t have to become adversarial. There are some very skilled principals out there that can get situations resolved. But like in anything. There are bad ones too.
So let’s put all this info into a simple strategy. There are five parts to this strategy and the order is critical. Unfortunately, most people start with part five. That’s usually a disaster. So let's not do that.
Parent - Investigative Reporter
You need to become an investigative reporter. This is done mainly with the ears and the eyes. Listen to what your child is saying. If you already have some form of communication from the teacher, listen to that too. But dig in and read between the lines. Is there something else being communicated that is not obvious? Validate your child’s feelings and the teacher's concerns. Remember, emotions are real even if they are a reaction to something that is not real.
Observe your child for clues. Is it at certain times or around certain activities? Is there another stressor? You can easily become an expert on your child’s emotions by watching our full documentary on how to do this. It’s like a course on the subject taught by a variety of experts in related fields. You can watch the trailer right here
Is there a possibility that there is a learning struggle. Learning struggles come in many forms and they are rarely an intelligence issue. That’s why they get missed so much in smart children. To help you figure that out watch our video on types of learning disabilities.
Step two is to make a plan to advocate for your child. Based on what you have learned in step one create a plan and keep your child involved in the plan. What concerns are you going to bring to the teacher?
If you suspect a learning struggle then get started on the Learning Success System. There’s a link for a free trial in the description.
Also, consider watching our video “Does my child need an IEP?”. You can get that right here [point up with left]
Step 3 - Parent Diplomat
Step three is to become a diplomat. Speak to the teacher, but be as diplomatic as you can muster up. Be on the same side as the teacher. Say things like “I’m coming to you with a problem I don’t completely understand. I’m hoping we can figure it out together”. Use phrasing like this to de-escalate. Constantly de-escalate if possible. Remember, it’s highly probable that you are both on the same side. Try to keep it that way.
Step 4 - Tattle Tale
Well, hopefully, you don’t get to step four. But if you do, step four is to make a choice. You turn this into a “sometimes life sucks” situation and turn it into a learning lesson for your child. Or you become a tattletale. Raise your concerns with the principal. Think about which of these is going to be best for your child long-term. If they can handle it themselves they’ll grow and be empowered. Sometimes that's the right answer, but sometimes you just have to step in. Take some time to think about this.
If you do go to the principal, then go over all the steps you have previously taken. At this point still try to de-escalate. Keep an attitude of “we’re trying to make this the best year possible” and keep bringing it back to your child’s perceptions. The feelings are real even if what is causing them is not.
Step five - Mama Bear
Well unfortunately at this point it is time for escalation. Now you can become the mama bear you probably wanted to become when this first came up. Your persistence makes it clear that you are not going away. The school will be forced to deal with this problem because you’ll make sure of it. Your most likely solution is to get your child moved to a different classroom or pull them out of the school altogether.
If you’ve done all the previous steps then it’s unlikely that you get to this point. Your solution will be easier, but if you do, well, you know what to do.
No matter what the outcome is here, your child’s emotions are already affected. Learning how to best deal with those emotions and learning how to teach your child to understand their own emotions is just good parenting. Emotional issues are going to come up throughout life. So teaching your child how to be emotionally intelligent is going to put them leaps and bounds beyond those who don’t have those skills. This is an opportunity to do that. You can learn how to teach your child to be emotionally intelligent in our documentary “The Overly Emotional Child”. which covers the subject in depth. Watching that will be a very well-spent couple of hours that will benefit you and your child for the rest of your lives.
Good job being such an awesome parent. You’ve got this.
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