Talking with your child's teacher regarding behavior problems your young child is having is always difficult. Parents often find it far easier to approach the conference angry or defensive, but those meetings are rarely productive. Put aside the anger, anxiety and fear and consider the teacher and your child as allies learning to work together.
Before the Meeting
Take some time before the conference to seek information from your child and perhaps your child's school friends. Get the child's point of view, opinions and facts.
Ask when the problems seemed to have started. Was there some event in the child's life around that time? Is he acting out in rebellion, confusion or pain?
Listen closely to what the child tells you and how the child tells you. Observe the behavior during the telling. Is he looking you in the eye? Is he fidgeting or keeping his eyes downcast? Is he lying or is he trying to hide something that makes him uncomfortable or angry?
Pay close attention to what his friends tell you. They may not use the same words you do to describe something, but they generally want what's best for him, and their first instinct is to tell the truth. Their viewpoint and observances may be just enough to help you whittle away what's burying the truth.
Take notes; put your thoughts on paper to help sort and clarify them. By the time you introduce yourself to the teacher, you may still be nervous, but at least you'll have some control over the situation and yourself.
During the Meeting
Do your best to listen and listen openly. Be active in the discussion without becoming antagonistic. Make it an exchange of information rather than an interview or a seminar regarding the child's behavior.
Take notes and ask any and every question that comes to mind, including the timeframe the disruptive behavior started.
Work with the teacher to compose a plan of action from both perspectives—at school and at home.
After the Meeting
Maintain regular contact with the teacher regarding the behavior trends and with your child about everything.
If needed, don't hesitate to seek counseling for the child. Your child will eventually feel and behave better; you'll gain peace of mind, and all the children in class will have a quieter, more productive environment.
Don't bring your child with you to the meeting. He's going to feel anxious enough about the situation without having to witness it, too.
Don't be antagonistic or defensive. Be open to suggestions from the teacher or the school councilor.
Don't be passive either. Take an active part in the conferences and the action plan. It's the teacher's classroom, but it's your child. If you believe the teacher is being too harsh, based on what your child said and what other children have said, recommend the teacher ease back in certain behaviors and explain why. If that doesn't work, seek an appointment with the teacher's supervisor—often the principal. Never jump to that level first, though. Work within the system as much as and for as long as you can.
Don't compare. Don't compare siblings, friends, schools or teachers. Treat this as a completely unique situation, because that's what it is: Your child is unique, and so are the problems he's having.
It's especially important throughout this process to keep an open mind and heart. Your child's teacher is not a villain, and neither is your child or you. Problems arise. Problems can be solved with effort, dedication and patience.
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