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Why Parents Need to Do the Growing Up
What has changed parents so much?
A few years ago I worked on a congressional campaign for a gentleman who had been a public high school teacher for thirty-seven years. Thirty-seven years. He never accepted an administrator position because he didn't want to abandon the classroom. He loved high school students.
He was convinced in thirty-seven years children had not changed all that much. "Kids are kids," he said with his love for them simply expressed in the tone of his voice. "But parents, boy have they ever changed."
I was raised, if you get in trouble at school, you get in trouble at home as well. It didn't really matter what happened. What mattered is that I had not followed the rules, not done what the teacher asked, or in any way, shape or form - gotten in trouble. That was not acceptable. Not at my house.
Not so today. A student gets in trouble at school today and nine times out of ten the parent shows up at the school demanding the teacher be fired. "My child would never hit another child, talk back to the teacher, fail to turn in homework -" You pick a problem. It doesn't matter. What matters is the parent's absolute certainty that their child has been wrongly accused, would never do such a thing, the teacher has it in for him or her, or you name it.
You have to ask yourself, why would a teacher make something up? Are they just lonely for some adult conversation, even if it comes at them in ear-splitting decimals? Are teachers today psychotic, imagining conflict where there is really only peace and harmony? Do people go into this relatively low-paying, stressful occupation just to pick on kids and provoke parents?
I can remember my mother's advice when I became a parent. "Never say 'not my child' because, given the right set of circumstances, my child is just as likely to do something wrong as any other child." Where did that wisdom go?
Somewhere in the process of trying to be the best parents the world has ever seen, parents today seem to have missed the part about children are still children. For all your best efforts they are simply learning their way in the world, and are susceptible to making mistakes, and errors in judgement, and just basically screwing up without it being a reflection on you as a parent.
Nobody is judging your abilities as a parent. A teacher is just letting you know Johnny is not doing his homework, or Susie can't seem to get along with her neighbors without hitting, or Bobby is being disrespectful and the school finds that unacceptable. Why can't so many parents today simply hear these things about their children, accept the fact that kids go through these things, and join with the teacher in helping the child adjust their behavior and move on? Why must so often the parents come back at the teacher loaded for bear and primed for a fight?
But my child would never hit another child because of the stellar parent I am.
He's a seven year old. Sure he would. I would at that age and so would you. Given the right circumstances, any seven-year old would. Can we get the focus off you and your self image and concentrate on helping a perfectly normal seven year-old over this absolutely common hurdle?
But I saw my teenager doing her homework last night, so she must have turned it in. Teacher, you must have lost it. Really? Really? You really think it is more likely that your daughter's teacher can only account for twenty-one book reports and somehow she let your daughter's work slip between the cushions of her couch? You really think that's what happened? A lot can happen between seven o'clock last night when you saw your daughter on the computer doing something and two o'clock this afternoon when the teacher had no book report with her name on it. Are you sure this is a hill you absolutely must die on to clear the besmirched name of you and your daughter?
Now, let me go on the record and admit my children have had teachers who were less than teacher of the year material. Teachers are not perfect. They make mistakes. They are sometimes unfair by the most lenient standard. But they are usually not. In a classroom of a couple of dozen students, they can usually spot one who is struggling or having trouble. If on occasion that turns out to be your child, why do so many parents find it impossible to simply accept the fact that these things happen in the course of raising children?
I'm from the generation that produced the current generation of parents. For the life of me, I can't tell you what we did to make these moms and dads so all fired defensive about their parenting. They certainly remember all my mistakes and don't hestitate to remind me of them at any and all opportunities. Why so many can't hear the slightest criticism of their offspring without taking it as a personal insult, I don't know. But too often they can't.
What is this behavior saying to children about respecting authority? What's going to happen the first time their boss hands them back a sales report and tells them to recheck their numbers? Are they going to be on the phone to mom, expecting her to come down to the office and spring to their defense? You laugh. But I've heard of parents calling college professors to argue a grade their twenty year-old received. I've had new reporters who wouldn't correct errors their editor found wrong in their news articles. They made the same mistakes week after week as if they couldn't be bothered with learning from their mistakes.
Not every negative thing that happens to a child is a bad thing. My daughter was in a magnet fifth grade class with higher than average academic students from around the county. The teacher took each of us parents aside at the first of the year and warned us that our child would be challenged in this class to the point of failing at something. It was part of the purpose of the magnet program because, for the most part, none of these children had ever failed at anything. They needed to learn the inevitablity of not always succeeding and how to deal with it. It was a hard thing for a parent to hear. But it would help them mature. It would help them grow up.
These days, it seems we have too many parents who haven't done that yet themselves.
Disclaimer: I am neither a teacher or a school administrator. I'm a parent of less than perfect children myself. It is not fatal.
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