A new school year means new challenges and new teachers for your child — but what do you when his relationship with the teacher is the challenge? Personality conflicts happen at all ages and stages of school and they can make your kid’s daily grind pretty tough. Here’s how you can help your child get through the next 10 months.
Talk it out
The most important thing you can do, is listen to your kid, says Danette Graham, a child therapist in Newmarket, Ont. Ask open-ended questions to figure out what’s really going on. What happened before the teacher yelled? Does the teacher yell at everyone, or just you? It can take a while for kids to learn how to read a new teacher’s signals and they may not realize what part they played in how things turned out.
Take it seriously
Although it’s tempting to tell your little one that you’re sure everything’s fine, brushing off an incident shuts down the conversation and can make her think her feelings aren’t important to you.
Don’t get angry
It can be difficult to control your own feelings when you think of someone is being mean to your child, but going into a meeting with the teacher while you’re on the defensive could keep you from hearing both sides of the story — and might actually make things worse for your child, says Graham. Keep an open mind and try to remember that there are two sides to every story.
Talk to the teacher
Young children need your help negotiating a troubled student-teacher relationship. When five-year-old Joey* came home saying his teacher hated him and complained he was always in trouble, mom Lena made sure the teacher knew how her son was feeling. ”She appreciated the feedback and felt bad,” says Lena. “She started to praise him more and reward his good behaviour, then things started to improve significantly.”
Keep them in the loop
When possible, include your child in discussions with the teacher, suggests parenting expert Ann Douglas. Not only does this strategy give you the opportunity to see their interactions first-hand, it also shows your child that you’re not talking about her behind her back. Kids are with their teachers for six hours a day, 10 months of the year — a strained relationship can be brutal if you don’t step in to help.
Offer continued support
Sometimes personalities just don’t click and when that’s the case, Graham says, all you can do is listen. When 11-year-old Nolan* had a tough time with his teacher, his mom, Rachel, made a point of asking about how his day was and letting him vent when he needed to. “I also tried to remind him that there’ll always be people he doesn’t like but that he still needed to treat them with respect.”
You were a kid once; letting your little one know you understand how he’s feeling will be very reassuring. If you ever had a hard time with a teacher, talk about how you dealt with it.
Fight or flight?
Watching your child go through a tough time can bring out your protective instincts and may even make you want to remove your child from the classroom. But rescuing children from a bad situation can teach them that if they don’t like the person in authority, they don’t have to stick it out. In extreme cases though, such as those that involve racial prejudice or children with learning differences that complicate the problem, exceptions do need to be made.
* Names have been changed