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Teacher picks On My Son

Q: How do I talk to my son’s fifth grade teacher and stop her negative treatment of him. Even other kids in the room say that she is hard on him. We have a sticker chart and he is losing stars at a great rate because we get yellow slips home from the teacher almost ever day; some are for his behavior, others are for something he forgot to bring to school.

He doesn’t even care about losing stars anymore. His grades are going down and he is more and more fidgety as the year goes on. I am so mad at the teacher. I just don't think sees how she is turning him off and making him feel bad.

A: First, whenever you talk to another person, in this case a teacher, you should phrase things in a way that expresses your concern for your child, and not in an accusatory fashion. As parents, when our child is being treated wrongly, our protective lion instincts come out. However, if we use words that cause the person to whom we are speaking to get defensive, then they stop listening and communication is over.

When you talk to the teacher, phrase things in a constructive way, “What can we do together to help my son?” instead of in a negative way, “I really think what you are doing is wrong.” Then try to state the facts as you see them, as pertaining to your son. “This is what I am observing: his grades are dropping and his attention span is shortening, his frustration is building and his interest in school is waning. What can we do as teachers and parents to get him back, ignite his interest and put him on a positive road?” Hopefully this will open some dialogue and start creative problem-solving while letting the teacher know you are actively involved in and concerned about your son’s education. Ask her if she can help you think creatively about finding opportunities to say positive things that will help build your child’s self-esteem and confidence so that he can behave appropriately.

When you talk to his teacher, put your thoughts into questions. Let her know that you are searching for the best answers for your son. You are his advocate and she gets to be with him more of his waking hours than you do. Since you both notice this negative downward slide, ask her what you and she can both do to turn it around. Tell her you are glad you can work together and to please keep in touch and give you the details of his behavior so you can better address them at home. Ask, “Can you tell me specifically what he does to disrupt the room? Is this unusual energy or just an average boy’s gross-motor behavior?”

The teacher will be more receptive to your concern if you state it in a positive fashion, “How can we excite my son about school? This is what I am noticing about him, and educating my son is the single most important thing I can do for him, so I want to find a way to help him love to learn.”

Then at home, in a quiet moment, in a calm tone, you can ask your son about a specific situation his teacher brought up and ask him what he was feeling. Ask him how he dealt with the situation, and then brainstorm with him about how he might have handled it differently.

Q: OK, but doesn’t it seem dumb to give a yellow slip for forgetting mittens or snow pants? ”

A: This is one step in helping your son learn to be responsible. Suggest to him that he write a sign and put it on the front door saying 'Don’t Forget!!' as a last minute reminder before he leaves for school.

Q: Aren’t all boys filled with energy?

A: Well, boys in general are wired for gross-motor activity right from the start. With that in mind, if your son has an abundance of energy that is coming out in the classroom, try getting a pile of pillows or a trampoline in the basement. Wake him up a little early so he has ten minutes to jump before going to school. Give him an appropriate place to release that energy.

At home, try to figure out what he is passionate about and tie that into his consequences. He needs to know that if his behavior at school is inappropriate, he cannot work with his model cars, or go fishing with his dad, or do something that is important to him. Then he will care enough to think about his behavior at home and at school.

Also, be sure to give him the opportunity to receive positive feedback. Thank him for even the slightest effort towards polite behavior. Kids need to see the positive results of their appropriate behavior. Sometimes we may only have a few opportunities to congratulate and thank them. If we miss those moments, they are only receiving the attention they get from their negative behavior, and they will soon decide that negative attention is better than no attention at all. So take the time to notice any small effort your child makes and make a big deal over it. Help him notice what he does that earns positive feedback.

Q: Well, the other problem is that the other boys at school are behaving inappropriately. How do we help him to understand that just because someone else is doing it does not mean it is ok for him to do also?

A: He can understand that. Explain quite simply that when other kids are doing something inappropriate, he can walk away. There is great power in walking away. It is a wonderful thing to teach your child, because ultimately you want him to have the strength of character to walk away from dangerous activities. If the kids he is playing with start to spiral out of control, he can say, “I’ll play with you guys later,” and walk away.

Get to know the boys in his class and try to set up some get-togethers with kids whom you see have good manners and make good choices. Let him develop relationships that are healthy and then if the “boisterous gang” at school gets too rowdy, he can move away from them and know he has other friends.

Tell him you believe in him; tell him you know that he knows what is acceptable. Tell him that he can actually be teaching other kids to make wise choices by role modeling that behavior. Congratulate him every time you see him make a good choice no matter how small. “Wow, thank you for giving that to your sister. That was awesome sharing.” Or, “Hey, congratulations, you just made a great choice; you are really growing up and getting wise!”

By teaching your son responsibility and self discipline you are creating a path to his successful future.

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