What parents want teachers and schools to know and understand.

One of the most common questions I get asked by teachers is, “What do parents want from us?”

The answer is Understanding.  Parents of children with inappropriate behaviour want to know and believe that the teachers and the rest of the school personnel understand them and their child.

The most common complaint I hear from parents is that they feel judged whenever they have to go into a school for a meeting about their child’s behaviour. Their number one request or wish is, “I need to be listened to without feeling judged.” When this does not happen they immediately feel defensive resulting in a strong need to protect both themselves and their child.   Most parents are probably in fight-for-their-child mode more than there’re not. They have to make sure not only the school, but doctors and counsellors listen. They have to fight to get him or her assistance. They have to be the translator when people don’t understand their child. They are the playground monitor and always on alert, ready to help the child when needed.  This makes them tired, weary and disheartened, especially when the school division, mental health and the politicians keep regurgitating the rhetoric of supporting all children.  Their experiences tell them otherwise.

What they want you to understand is that they are not sure where they fit in. Sure, their parents, but their child is not typical. They are dealing with things most parents don’t, even with other parents of behaviourally challenged children. Perhaps their child talks less and acts out more. The feel like they don’t fit in with them either.

Chances are these parents do the bulk of the work by themselves. Many parents find they have to reteach their child the lessons he or she was taught in school.  Because the school environment was not conducive for the child, “to get it” so they spend their evenings going over the information and helping the child understand just what the homework means. One parent is busy working to support the family, often she is a single parent. All that work costs in time and money. They don’t have money to go out on the town with friends, and it’s pretty complicated for them to get out just for coffee. Sadly, some friends stop hanging around because they can’t handle the challenges the family is facing. And, sometimes they withdraw into themselves because they just doesn’t have the energy to explain things.

They feel misunderstood. For example, people think one or both parents are too controlling. What you don’t understand is that these parents constantly have to think of what their child’s challenges are and observe the environment for how it will affect the child. Some parents feel they have to think ahead and come up with not just one, but multiple scenarios and plan for each. They have to think of all the extra things most parents don’t have to think about. They have to translate what the child’s doing or saying. They don’t mean to be bossy. Experience has taught them these skills because if they didn’t, the result was bad.

They want to talk but don’t have much to say. Sometimes they’re just too tired to think of anything. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to have a closer relationship with the school. It just means there may be occasions when they want to hear what you have to say without saying much.

My intent is to educate and to close the gap between the “us” vs “them” attitude that is prevalent. It is important that both the school personnel and the parents are communicating in kindness to reduce misunderstandings. Parents need to make sure they are not “playing the victim” and teachers need to make sure they are not “playing the expert”.

I’m simply sharing some of my own inner thoughts and those of other parents that don’t get discussed very often.  If you have things you need to say or thoughts you would like to share please leave a comment.

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