Personality clashes are a fact of life. Everyone isn’t always going to get along and some people just aren’t going to like others. While as adults, most of us have developed the life skills that allow us to work with those who we’d prefer not to, our young children haven’t.
As adults we’re usually able to put our feelings aside for the sake of the work at hand, but for our children who haven’t quite reached the level of maturity and development where they can bypass their feelings and successfully work with those whom they don’t particularly care for, working together can be a real challenge.
While it can be tempting to remove your child from the classroom of a teacher that he doesn’t care for, that may not be the best solution. Instead of immediately resorting to removing your child from the classroom, consider walking through these steps first.
Understand the Problem
Ask your child open ended questions about his classroom experience. Asking open ended questions that give your child a chance to formulate honest responses like “What did you enjoy doing day?” “What didn’t you enjoy?” “What do you like most about school?” and “What do you like least?” “What’s your favorite thing about Ms. Robinson?” “What don’t you like about her?” may help you pinpoint what is triggering your child’s feelings toward his teacher.
When listening to your child’s responses, it’s always helpful to remember that he’s sharing his perspective. While he may tell you he doesn’t like that the teacher would not let him play outside, the reality may be that none of the children were able to play outside that day. Asking follow up questions like “Can you tell me more about that?” can often help clarify the situation.
Give Your Child Tools to Communicate
If your child expresses that the teacher hurt his feelings, or that he feels like the teacher picks on him, give him some tools to help him communicate his feelings. Suggest that he speak to the teacher about how he feels using the “I feel… when…” pattern of communication. For example, if your daughter feels like the teacher picks on her for the way she pronounces a word, encourage her to say something like “I feel embarrassed when you keep telling me I say that word wrong.” Teaching a child to effectively communicate for herself and to problem solve are some of the most powerful things a parent can do.
Address the Issue
While of course serious issues and accusations should be addressed immediately with the teacher, even minor issues may warrant parental intervention. If you and your child have tried to work through the issue or concern unsuccessfully, you may wish to schedule a meeting with the teacher.
During the meeting, try to refrain from being accusatory and instead, approach the problem with insight and ideas for possible solutions. Instead of saying “Johnny said you wouldn’t let him play outside,” it can be more effective to say something along the lines of “Johnny came home from school upset and I wanted to see if anything happened at school. He mentioned something about not going outside. Can you give me more information as to if this may have upset him? When plans change, he really does better when there is time for transition.”
While there certainly are situations where the teacher doesn’t deserve the benefit or the doubt, in most cases, it makes sense to keep an open mind and to remember that you are hearing your child’s perspective.
While pulling your child out of a teacher’s class may seem like the easiest and best solution, if you can work through the situation together, you’ll be giving your child more than math and English lessons. You’ll be giving him essential skills that will carry him through his lifetime