With a new school year comes new teachers. Getting to know a new teacher is usually fun and exciting for kids, but every now and then teacher and student clash, and the results can be troubling. What do you do if your child doesn’t get along with their teacher? When and how do you, as a parent, step in to mediate?
First off, take time to determine how serious the conflict is. Kids tend to report on teachers in vague terms, something like “My math teacher hates me,” or “Mr. Smith is mean to me.” Ask your child to name more specific mistreatment. Determine if the problem is related to schoolwork, or has more to do with the way your child and their teacher interact personally.
Once you have an idea of what your child’s take on the situation is, talk to the teacher. Schedule a one-on-one meeting and bring your best non-confrontational language. Open the discussion with something like: “I know my child is having a hard time in your class. What do you think we could all do to change that?” There’s a good chance the teacher has considered the problem and can offer some specific and thoughtful advice.
If the problem is serious, parent, teacher, and student should come together to discuss the issue and make a plan to move forward. It can be worthwhile for your child to be present, just to let the teacher know that they want to make an effort to get along. And for the most part, kids walk away from these kinds of meetings with a much clearer idea about what they need to do to move ahead.
Avoid taking sides in a student-teacher conflict. Taking the teacher’s side alienates your child and doesn’t validate their potentially serious claims of bias or mistreatment. Siding with your child may boost their confidence, but it won’t help them solve their own problems or learn to work with people they don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with. With older kids, it may be wise to let your child settle their student-teacher disagreement on their own. Here, try to offer advice from your own experience. Ever have a disagreement in the workplace? How did you get over that?
Student-teacher conflicts present teachable moments and promote inter-personal skills. It may be the first time your child comes into contact with an authority figure, but it won’t be the last. Only your guidance can help them find a solution to their conflict – and make sure they develop the conflict-resolution skills for a harmonious life.