**This is a guest post from Andrea Nair, she is sharing today her ideas on Ways to reduce conflict and increase connection with your child’s teachers. This article originally appeared on Andrea’s blog here.**
The relationship between a parent and their child’s teachers is important for that child’s development and fostering a life-long love of learning. It also helps children relax when they know the various people they spend all day with are on the same page.
Having been a high-school teacher for ten years before becoming a psychotherapist, I witnessed parent-teacher relationships go well, but also very, very badly. My worst parent-experience as a teacher was when a Dad screamed — at the top of his voice — how incompetent I was (for not allowing his son to re-write a test he had skipped.)
As in any relationship, some effort, openness, and conflict skills help keep the ever-important communication flowing. Here are 5 tips to forming a secure-attachment with your child’s teachers. Yes, I said secure attachment – that’s not just for babies!
1) Whether we like it or not, first impressions have more weight than we probably would like. Take a moment to wipe the toddler-snot off your shoulder and do your hair. Leave the grey sweat-pants and flip-flops in the “only wear at home” drawer, pulling out your funkiest outfit.
First impressions also apply to the children! It has been said a teacher will grade a child over the whole year based on the very first mark they receive at the beginning. Talk to you children about this, and about how they can start off on the “right foot” with their teacher.
2) Try to avoid getting into a power struggle with your child’s teacher. I’m sure my boy’s teachers fight over who is NOT going to have my kids in their class. I can just see them shaking their heads, “You take the parenting-expert’s kids! That’s all I need…”
I make sure to ask the teachers what they have used that worked, and what they can share with me that isn’t going so well with my kids. I try very hard to make it an even playing field between the teacher and I by not pulling the “well, in my experience as a parent-expert, I have found…” card and really make an effort to hear their ideas.
3) Find a way to regularly communicate to the teacher that they are valued and capable. This is called “encouragement!” Starting off sentences with, “My son loved when you…” or “Hey, my daughter really smiles when she talks about you…” goes a long way to building strong attachment. The teacher will actually change their behaviour to try and get more comments like that from you! The one that warms my heart the most is, “I’m so grateful for how much care you give to my son – I can really see that he likes you.”
4) At the first sign of discord ask them if they have 5 minutes to chat. Do not wait to off-load at parent-teacher conferences. Ask for their perspective and then share yours. This can be tricky when a teacher or parent uses mostly old-school punishment type discipline and the other does not.
Rather than shaming the teacher with, “I can’t believe you shouted at my kid – you obviously know nothing about teaching!” I would calmly start out, “So my son said you raised your voice at him today. I would like to know more about that, please…” I italicized those words because that line is key to getting someone to open up without feeling they need to defend themselves;”Can/ Would you please tell me more about that?” Chances are good the teacher is going to tell you “sorry” and that they were at the end of their rope, and your child happened to throw a pencil at their friend at the wrong time.
I smile at the teacher and offer some suggestions of non-punishment discipline after a little line of validation, “YA! That would have driven me nuts too. Usually when my son throws something I try, ‘Throwing happens outside.'”
5) Speak to the teacher directly before involving others. If you feel there is conflict brewing between your child and their teacher, try speaking to them before involving a vice-principal or principal. If you involve an authority figure, chances are good you are going to cause “counterwill” with that teacher which is not going to help your relationship grow. This is a great time to model, “use your words!”
When parents and teachers work together, a child can stop focusing on how to manage or figure out adult behaviour, and just be kids.
Andrea Nair, M.A., CCC is a former high-school teacher and taught math, science and health to junior and senior high school students. Andrea is now a Psychotherapist, Parenting Educator & Co-owner of The Core Family Health Centre. You can read more about Andrea at www.andreanair.com
So, are things going well with your child’s teacher so far?