Parenting

Parenting: Be skeptical when child complains about teacher

September 9, 2013 

The statute of limitations has expired concerning the following tale, so I can finally tell it.

In October of my now 40-something-year-old son Eric’s seventh-grade year, he informed me he was probably going to get a D, maybe even an F, in English on his upcoming report card.

“How’s that?” I asked.

“My teacher doesn’t like me, Dad,” he replied. He then launched into a litany of her many offenses against him, including blaming him for things he didn’t do, targeting him for unwarranted criticism, covering his best work with negative comments, and mocking his answers in front of the entire class.

“You can’t pull wool over my eyes, Eric,” I said. “ You’re a troublemaker in her class. Maybe the other kids think you’re funny. She doesn’t, and neither do I. I have only one thing to tell you, which is that if you don’t get at least a B in her class, you will spend every free moment of the next grading period in your room and you will go to bed every night at seven.

Indeed, he managed to get a B. How he managed to accomplish this feat is something I never looked into. I did not even talk to Miss Malevolence. She may not have been a very good teacher. I doubt that seriously; nonetheless, her competence wasn’t the issue. The issue was that I expected Eric to be a good student.

There are three morals to this story, the first of which is that Eric solved his problem because he believed me. He knew that threats were not part of my parenting vocabulary. Can you say the same of your kids?

The second moral is that big problems require even bigger consequences. Most parents, I have discovered, try too hard to make sure punishments “fit” crimes. In the process, they end up doing nothing of consequence. A child misbehaves in some egregious fashion and parents respond with a light tap to the wrist with a flyswatter. “Take that!” they cry, and nothing changes.

The third moral is that children do not make good witnesses. hen When they complain about teachers, their complaints are generally not truthful. I don’t mean that they are lying. They aren’t telling the truth because they cannot see it. The ability to accept full responsibility for one’s misdeeds separates the men from the boys, which is why a good number of “men” (including a good number of women) are still “boys.”

As this school year begins, it would be a good thing if parents resolved to always give a teacher’s report the benefit of the doubt. Children benefit considerably when adults stand together.

rosemond.com

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