By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW, November 29, 2018 –

My son perfected his excuses for missing homework around sixth grade, and for some reason it became my problem.  That’s a strange thing for a parent to say, but I really felt as though teachers were accusing me of not being an adequate parent because I couldn’t ensure my child completed his homework at home.

This created a dynamic between the teachers and me, allowing my son to step back and play his games while I hashed it out with school.  Everyone was working harder for his success, and he had manipulated me into believing he was the victim.  It was toward the end of his eighth-grade year that I admitted defeat, and finally realized the problem was ME.

I was not listening to the information given to me by the teacher, because in my head, I was being told “You are a bad parent” – and it was hurtful.  The tone of my voice when talking about the teacher became negative, and my son fueled this.  He even went to school and told his teachers, “My mom doesn’t like you, and it makes her mad when you call her.”  I was my own worst enemy.

Taking a look at how I responded to teacher concerns was a big help for me.  Instead of taking the information as a personal attack, I reminded myself the teacher was attempting to form a positive alliance to determine why he was not turning in homework.  I hadn’t taught my son to be accountable and take responsibility for his actions.

Here are some suggestions for teaching this skill:

  1. Model positive communication with the teacher, and encourage the same from your child. When your child begins making negative statements about their teacher, redirect them to think about things they like about the teacher.
  2. Practice appropriate responses. There is an appropriate time and way to let the teacher know your child needs help or you don’t agree with a decision.
  3. Help your child see things from another’s point of view. This is particularly helpful for students who believe their teacher doesn’t like them.
  4. Do not make excuses for your child. Teach them to own their mistakes.  Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s alright.  Teach your child to admit their mistakes, then think of ways to prevent it from happening again.
  5. Encourage your child to process their feelings appropriately. It is perfectly normal to become upset, but it isn’t appropriate to throw a fit in the classroom.  Practice ways your child can excuse themselves from the classroom in order to calm down.  Discourage yelling, throwing things, slamming the door, and calling names.
  6. Be prepared to side with the teacher. Your natural instinct is to protect your child, so this is difficult for many parents.  It may be necessary to take 24 hours to think about information and decide how to respond to the situation.  Your child needs to know you support them, but you must also respect the teacher.  It is your responsibility to help mold your child into a successful member of society who treats others with respect.  This is a skill that will be used in college, jobs, and future relationships.
  7. Set clear expectations. Sit down with your child and write clear consequences for their actions.  For example:  Student is told he will lose cell phone for 24 hours if he has missing homework.
  8. Follow through. It is very important to always follow through with consequences.  There is no negotiation.  If you don’t follow through with consequences every single time, then behavior will continue to escalate.

It may not be the easiest thing to do as a parent, but it’s worth it. Holding kids accountable for their actions will help mold them into successful, responsible adults.