Your Child Says Their Teacher Is Mean, What Do You Do?
Over the past few days I have had several friends tell me that September is wearing them out. I know the feeling. Between getting everyone organized for school and re-establishing a routine, September is never as relaxing as you imagine in August when the last bits summer and family togetherness have worn you down. All the free time you thought that you would have when the kids went back-to-school is just a myth. My closets are still just as cluttered. My rugs just as dirty. My DVR just as full of shows not appropriate for children as it was a month ago.
We are a few weeks in and the shine of going back-to-school is wearing off. Waking up early, doing homework, packing lunches… all of it is a whole less fun than it was just a few weeks ago. And not just for the parents. It is also the time of year when you begin to hear complaints from the kids about their teachers. Cries of “My teacher hates me!” “My teacher is mean!” are played out over the dinner tables in many of our homes.
So what do you do? None of us wants to raise children who go through life looking for excuses when things don’t go their way. “I got a bad grade because my teacher doesn’t like me.” “My professor is a jerk.” “I didn’t get a promotion because my boss hates me.” We all want our children to be empowered and have a sense of personal responsibility.
How do you know when to step in and when to let your child work it out for themselves?
1) Get to the bottom of it. Ask questions. What specifically happened that makes your child think their teacher is mean? Often a one-time misunderstanding can cloud a child’s perceptions. Helping your child see that situation from the teacher’s point of view can help in these instances. Young children, especially, often use the words always and never, when in reality they are describing a one-time event.
My son came home from school once saying his teacher was mean because “she would NEVER let him have a drink during recess.” Since it is not unusual to have days that are over 100 degrees here, this could raise concerns if it were true. Knowing his teacher, however, I also highly doubted the accuracy of his story. After asking a few questions I realized that the kids were lining up to go back inside when my son asked to get a drink. One time.
2) Empathize with your child and their frustrations, but don’t jump on the I-hate-the-teacher-bandwagon. Even if you really want to! Doing so will just fuel their anger and cloud their ability to rationally think about the situation. Allow for the possibility that your child is misinterpreting the teacher. Some people are more difficult than others to get along with. Not so much for the younger elementary school aged children, but those in high school need to realize that they will have to get along and work with people in their lives that they don’t like. This is a good time to practice that skill.
3) Is the teacher “mean” or just one who demands excellence from her students? The teacher is not mean for making you rewrite a messy paper. A teacher isn’t mean for making you skip recess because you were too busy socializing to finish your schoolwork. A teacher isn’t mean for making you sit in the front of the room next to her if you are being disruptive. However, as a parent, if these things are happening on a daily basis you probably need to go speak with the teacher and find out what’s going on in the classroom and what you can do to help your child be successful.
4) Help the child see things from the teacher’s point of view. Role playing situations can help them empathize with what the teacher is going through. It might seem funny to the children when someone acts like a class clown, but how would it feel as the teacher to constantly be interrupted. Being able to see the world through someone else’s eyes is truly a life skill. If everyone learned this skill as a child what a better world this would be.
5) If your child’s complaints are ongoing, reach out to other parents you know who have children in the class and ask them if their child is coming home with any complaints. You might want to ask how your child behaves in the class. Prepare yourself for that answer. I speak from experience here.
6) If you decide to approach the teacher, do it carefully. Most teachers are good and caring people, who really do love their jobs, at least that has been my experience. They want to know if your child is unhappy and come up with strategies to make the classroom experience a positive one. But don’t go in to talk them in a way that puts them on the defensive. Use positive language, not negative.
7) Volunteer at the school or in the classroom. There is no better way to know what is going on in the classroom and the school than to be there. And no better way to make sure that your child is on their best behavior.
And despite all of this, sometimes you do get a teacher, or class, that just isn’t a good fit for your child. And there are times you get a teacher who really is a jerk, though I have found these to be few and far between. If you try everything above and there isn’t any improvement in the way your child feels, then it would be time to reach out the administration and see what they suggest.
October is right around the corner, parents. Hopefully all the wrinkles will be ironed out by then. Lord knows those TV shows aren’t going to watch themselves.Published September 23, 2013. Last updated June 26, 2018.