‘We need to talk.’Those four words from a child’s teacher can strike fear in the heart of any parent. No one likes to learn that their kid’s behavior is causing issues in class. But if you go into the conversation with the right mindset – and a commitment to work together – everybody can come out a winner.
Here’s what you should do before, during, and after you sit down with your child’s teacher.
Child development doesn’t take place in a vacuum, according to the late psychologist Uri Brofenbrenner. It relies on a complex network of relationships with multiple caregivers: parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc.
Kids benefit when their caregivers act as a team, supporting and respecting each other. On the flip side, when parents, teachers and other caregivers butt heads, it can actually hold your child back.
Let’s call this Uri’s law: the more you work with your child’s teacher and not against each other, the better off your kid will be.
Assuming you know ahead of time, let your child know about the meeting. That will give them a chance to voice any concerns they may have. Ask open-ended questions to get a better understanding of what might be going on. For example:
How are you feeling about school lately?How are you getting along with your classmates?Do you feel like you’re getting the help you need at school?
Make a list of questions you’d like to ask your child’s teacher. Also, think about any useful information you can share about what’s going on at home, or strategies you use to handle any behavioral issues.
The goal is to achieve a consistent response to challenging behaviors at school and home, to give you the best chance of seeing positive results.
You’ve got the right mindset and you’ve got a plan. What about the meeting itself? Here are 4 tips for how to have a constructive conversation.
If your child’s behavior is causing challenges, it’s normal to be concerned. But remember Uri’s law: their teacher is not the enemy. Chances are you both want the same thing – form a team for your child’s sake.
Most teachers are underpaid, under-resourced and tasked with the all-but-impossible challenge of accommodating two dozen or more kids and their parents. All of which is to say, treating your child’s teacher with a bit of respect will go a long way.
Here are a few specific ways you can do just that:
Some parents’ first impulse is to look for someone to blame – the teacher, the school, a classmate… it’s understandable but misguided.
Resist the urge to make excuses for your child’s behavior or point fingers. It’s counterproductive. Besides, chances are very slim your child’s teacher is making it all up.
Your goal should be to walk out of that meeting with an action plan to help your child thrive at school. Keep the conversation focused on your child and how you and their teacher can work together to help them succeed.
Be sure to mention any concerns you have about your child’s well-being. If you’ve noticed any behavioral issues at home, let their teacher know.
Also include any relevant information about the child’s home life. Are there any medical conditions, emotional issues, or life changes (such as a divorce or a recent move) that could be affecting their behavior.
Your next steps are just as important as the initial conversation. Here’s what you should do after you and your child’s teacher sit down together:
You should leave the meeting with a set of goals for your child and agreed-upon action steps you can take to help your child meet them.
Schedule a follow-up meeting a week or so after you’ve put your plan into action, so you and the teacher can review your child’s progress and make any changes as needed.
Hearing that your child is struggling in class is never fun. But hang in there. With the right mindset, the right plan and the right follow-up, you and your child’s teacher can set them on a path to success.
Learn how to master kick-ass parenting strategies by getting started with Family Man. It’s an interactive parenting video series that's expert-backed and funded by Movember.
If research is your thing take a closer look at the evidence behind Family Man.
Or learn more before diving in.