When issues with your child arise in school it is important that you, as their parent, are notified. The teacher or principal may contact you to address the issue if they feel it warrants attention but in other cases it may be your child who has an issue with a teacher and comes to you.
When the latter occurs, you can be at a disadvantage as you are emotionally involved in the issue. How you communicate with the teacher or principal is an important factor in resolving issues fairly and promptly for all. Here are ’10 ways’ to support you to resolve your child’s issues with authority figures in school:
- When your child tells you of an incident in the school with their teacher, or any school figure, you must sit with your child and hear the full story. Understand the context in which it happened. Ask them to clarify when, and where, it happened and how they felt about it at the time. Talk with them about how they are feeling now.
- Only get involved if your child feels they need your support. Try writing a letter to the teacher and request a follow-up meeting. Let your child know that you are going to contact their teacher or principal. Ask them how they feel about this.
- While you can become involved, your child also needs to be able to talk to their teacher about what they are not happy or comfortable with in that teacher’s approach.
- If your child behaved very poorly stand up and acknowledge this. You are doing them no favours otherwise. Your child should always be treated fairly and with respect and should return this respect to their teacher.
- Hearing the other side is important as is getting the school figure to hear your child’s side of the story. If your child has been hurt by the school’s approach, they need to know that fact in order for any change to take place. Let the teacher or principal know that you want to understand the full story and you are prepared to work with them to achieve change.
- Ensure that you are not emotionally charged. Think about what you need to say and how you need to say it. Clear and direct communication is the key to assertive communication. Using ‘I’ statements are to be avoided (“I think, I know, I feel, I am etc.) as the tone of these can suggest you are blaming or condemning another person’s actions and conflict is the most likely outcome.
- In order to support our children to stand up for themselves and communicate assertively we need to strive to be role models for them. We need to champion them at all times. We need to stand tall beside them and support them. If we don’t support children to speak up and seek the right to be treated with respect they will not know they have this right as they mature into adults.
- If you have taken every step to positively engage with the teacher/principal and they are not interested in engaging with you then you need to engage with the board of management. Schools are there to provide a service to children and parents and at times they may need extra resources and support from their board to do this. The board need to be informed if issues cannot be resolved.
- Never hide abuse or intimidation in schools. Bring another parent with you if you feel your voice is not strong enough to talk with a teacher. Most teachers welcome parents coming to them with issues when they first happen before they escalate. Do not approach teachers in front of other parents or children. Give them the respect you are seeking for you and your child.
- During the course of the meeting, if you really feel that you cannot be supported, then leave. Go home and think about this again. Think about the language you have used and explore if you can change anything in your approach. Talk with a parent from the parent teacher council in confidence. Review the school policies and then try again.
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.
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