Parents are responsible for their children everywhere
What happens at school shouldn't stay at school.
Originally published in the Moultrie News.
My son gets into trouble from time to time in elementary school. Nothing unusual or big, just talking out, playing, being out of seat, etc. Every time the teacher has to punish him for it, she calls home. Why does she feel the need to do this? I deal with him when he’s at home for home behaviors; can’t the school deal with him when he’s at school for school behaviors?
Certainly one reason the teacher feels the need to do this is if she doesn’t, parents will complain, “Why didn’t you tell me he was getting in trouble at school?” And it’s very likely this complaint will bypass the teacher and go straight to the principal, who doesn’t have time for it. So a second possible reason the teacher feels she needs to tell you is that the principal has ordered all teachers to do so.
I’ll put it another way: you’re an exception. Most parents want to know when their children are being bad at school. Ideally, this helps the child learn good behavior.
Cluing cooperative parents in on their children’s school misdeeds adds continuity in reinforcing proper conduct. When kids learn that disobedience at school will result in more trouble at home, they’re more apt to watch how they act. In fact, consequences at home are more likely to change a child’s school behavior than most school consequences.
Think about it. What can schools really do to punish ordinary bad behaviors? Recess detentions? Silent lunches? Severely-raised eyebrows? All of those penalties are so mild that children who really relish their willfulness easily acclimate to them. I teach kids every year who say they just get used to not having recess. Children are highly adaptive, and that works against what schools can do to try to change their behavior.
But at home, parents have the power to hit ’em where it hurts. They can take away their phones, video games, and televisions. They can ground them. They can make them rake leaves, wash windows or pull weeds.
When schools and homes work in concert like that, it dramatically lessens the probability that a child will continue in his troublesome behavior. That’s why the worst-behaved students are almost always from homes where parents do little to reinforce school efforts in improving the child’s conduct. They take the view that what happens at school should stay at school (making teachers sometimes wonder if boarding school — where we could hold students accountable for their behavior all day — would allow us to be a lot more effective).
I do find common ground with you on one point. Parents don’t need to be notified each and every time a misbehavior occurs. Children need room to correct their conduct on their own. That’s part of growing up. So I would only reach out to parents once it looks like the child’s trajectory is headed in the wrong direction.
In my experience, when parents don’t want teachers to contact them about school behavior, many times what they really mean is, “Don’t bother me with this.” When you know your kids are acting up, you’re obligated to do something about it, and doing something usually means conflict with the child. Parents who recoil at that inconvenience would prefer to bury their heads in the sand.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way parenting works. When you have a child, you have to manage the whole child, no matter what he does or where he does it. You can’t just breeze through the easy parts and let schools take care of the tough stuff like conduct, character, and self-control. Schools have a hard enough time with reading, writing, and arithmetic. Shouldering the added burden of shaping your child’s personality is more than they can reasonably bear alone.
Read original column here.
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