What to Do When a Teacher Doesn’t Like Your Child

Posted April 13, 2015 by

It’s no secret that certain phone calls bring anxiety. Think about getting a call from your child’s teacher. To me, that call is like a bomb that keeps exploding in your face. The phone rings (the smoke). The teacher explains that she has tried to email you (blaring fire alarm). She shares that the other teachers on the team have similar concerns (explosion number one). She summarizes the numerous failed classroom interventions (explosion number two).

Unfortunately, I got this call a week ago. I listened to the teacher for a bit, but then the teacher’s voice faded. All I could think about were the times my child whined, “My teacher doesn’t like me.” I knew that this mantra would definitely be my child’s go-to defense when informed of this phone call.

My conversation with the teacher ended with my promise to talk to my child. I knew this would be difficult, for both me and my child. Even if there is evidence to the contrary, I want to come to my child’s defense. As a parent, I instantly take the “it’s not them (children), it’s you (teacher)” stance. Unfortunately, this point of view leads to unjustly blaming the teacher.

So, talking to your child about whether the teacher likes/dislikes them is tricky. It’s the age-old dilemma of following your heart vs. your head. To make matters worse, the dilemma often distracts us parents from tackling the real issue at hand (the issue that triggered the phone call to you).

Are you tired of feeling unprepared to address the “teacher hates me” mantra? The first step is talking to your child. Take a look at these 6 tips to stop your child’s negative thoughts so they may better respond to their teacher.

 

  • Challenge the faulty thinking.

 

      Challenge your child’s negative thoughts about the teacher. For instance, instead of focusing on the negative, ask them to describe a positive interaction they had with the teacher.

 

    1. Encourage positive self-talk. Brainstorm with your child about their strengths in the classroom. When they begin to think negatively about the teacher (“My teacher doesn’t like me.”), try to get them to substitute a positive thought instead (I’m going to be good at ____no matter how my teacher feels about me.”)

 

    1. Eliminate all or nothing thinking. If your child thinks that the teacher never calls on him, or if she feels the teacher always reprimands her, examine the situation more clearly and specifically. Maybe the teacher did not call on him today, or perhaps she was reprimanded once last week.

 

    1. Focus on skill building. Ask your child to consider what skills in other students the teacher seems to respond positively to, and how might your child practice these skills?

 

  1. Set a goal. Try to decrease the amount of times that your child says that their teacher doesn’t like them. In order to help your child achieve this goal, identify barriers (participating in class, meeting assignment deadlines, following class rules) and supports (parents, school staff, peers).

Examine your child’s role in the interaction. Ask your child: “How have you tried to build a positive rapport with your teacher?”

Talking to your child is only the first step. Now it’s time to talk to the teacher. Take a look at these 6 tips on approaching the teacher.

  1. Be prepared. Write down what you will ask the teacher and what you hope to accomplish by speaking with the teacher (bonus tip: send the information to the teacher in advance).
  2. Share your point of view. Be honest with the teacher and share if you feel anxious about meeting (for example, you do not want to interfere with the teacher’s busy schedule), if you feel self-conscious (you fear that you will appear over-protective), or if you feel uncertain (you are unsure of the best way to address the issue).
  3. Ask questions. Inquire about how staff-student relational issues are typically managed in the teacher’s classroom and in the school.
  4. Provide data. Parent-teacher communication is a two-way street. You will receive information from the conference, but you must provide insight as well. Share details about how often (daily, weekly, once per semester) your child professes that the teacher does not like him. In addition, provide details about when (early in the semester, before the weekend, after tests, etc.) your child makes the claim. The information you share may help uncover the triggers that facilitate your child having these negative thoughts.
  5. Offer assistance. Directly ask how you may help. A short brainstorm session with the teacher may prove invaluable.
  6. Discuss a post-conference plan. Determine how follow-up will occur. Will you contact the teacher or vice-versa? Decide how you and the teacher will determine progress and be clear about the level of progress that is expected.

It’s your turn. What’s the first thing that pops into your head when your child gets a case of the “my teacher hates me” blues? Have you made a break-through and your child has actually taken a second look at how their negative thoughts affect their classroom performance? If you are still struggling with this like me, what’s your best “what not to say” advice? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

About

Dr. Jennifer Davis Bowman serves as an adjunct professor for Education and Psychology courses in Ohio. She is a wife and a mother of 3 children. She regularly contributes to a blog on the ASCD website for educators where she shares her experiences as both a mother and an educational leader.

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  1. Wendy (Edit) Report

    You did NOT address what happens when a teacher truly does not like your child. Because unfortunately, personality conflicts DO happen. And, unfortunately sometimes it’s not only your child who does not react in a mature manner. There ARE teachers out there who SHOULD NOT BE TEACHERS!!!!

    Reply
    • Ally (Edit) Report

      Agree. I really am not a big fan of this article. I have read a few articles that were more realistic and helpful. It is true sometimes the teacher does not like the child or feels bothered by them.

      Reply
      • sad and frustrated (Edit) Report

        My child’s Latin teacher has in not so many words already admitted to me that he does not like my child and told him that he is “pathetic” in front of other kids.  yes teachers often take a personal dislike to students.

        Reply
  2. Pat H (Edit) Report

    This is very tricky like others have said. I have taught and tutored mostly middle school and high school aged children for many years. Sometimes a child will say their teacher doesn’t like them when they are trying to avoid starting or finishing an academic assignment. The parent might ask the child about the status of an assignment, and if the child responds by saying the teacher doesn’t like them, the focus can shift away from the work due and onto a related topic to deflect accountability away from the student even if only for a short time.

    Being a mother of four, several of our children did have a few teachers that did not like them.  Being a teacher myself, II always wanted first to hear both sides of the issue. Then I would investigate over a period of time what patterns of behavior emerged from both the teacher and our child.

    Reply
  3. chase (Edit) Report

    In order to teach responsibility in kids, get the child/teen to deal with the issue they have with the teacher directly. If that does not work set up a meeting with the teacher. If that does not work, let your child know that this is how the real world works…we cannot be liked by everyone and we might not like everyone. As an individual, I would expect my child to do their best and disregard grades ( if the teacher was grading unfairly). If the teacher seems to be outright discriminating or bullying or constantly being mean, have them change to a new class/teacher.

    Reply
  4. Maria Sowinski (Edit) Report

    Don’t let either of them off the hook.  It is a teachers job to reach each student.  It is the students job to follow the rules.  Engage the teacher.  Ask her or him what solutions they believe will work.  They have seen thousands of kids, you have only seen one, two or three.  Expect them to come up with a way that works for everyone including the student.

    Reply
  5. bigblue (Edit) Report

    I have seen with my son’s teacher a holier-than-thou attitude at times. It makes it more difficult for both my child and me. I know my son isn’t perfect, but the teacher seems to think that the child is always wrong and the teacher is always right. It gets frustrating.

    Reply
  6. Maria Sowinski (Edit) Report

    Parents take heart.  Just because your child does not do well in traditional school settings, does not indicate how the rest of their life will turn out.  My son needed two desks for all of his papers in third and fourth grade.  He drove his teachers crazy.  The teachers especially in 3rd and 4th grade continually told us about how disruptive he was to their teaching, how he did not have the assignments and would definitely not be able to navigate through high school.  We told the teachers that was not an option and they needed to work with him and us to figure it out.  We always encouraged our son to get his papers in order, tried many things, and just let him be.  We did hold our son accountable for turning his work in and he did miss out on activities when he did not meet the assignments.

    One particular teacher told the rest of the class that “he is going to be a garbage man when he grows up” as our son left the class room to sit in the hall while the class reviewed an assignment he could not find.  You can imagine my fury when I heard that.  When I asked my son what he thought of that.  He shrugged his shoulders and said, “well at least I will be making more money than Mrs. Teacher.  The newspaper said she makes $40,000 per year.  Garbage men make $63,000 per year.   My fourth grade son on his own read and remembered the salaries of a newspaper article on different types of employment.  The salaries I listed are not accurate, just an example.  It did not bother him in the least what she said, I needed to let it go too.

    Today as I write this my son is one semester short of a finance degree in college.  HAHA take that you third and fourth grade teachers!  He is a deep, quick thinker, board with the monotony of school.  He loves checking out all of the audio books from the college library and listens to them in between the regular college activities.

    Maria Sowinski

    Reply
  7. lark (Edit) Report

    Good thoughts.  We tried repeatedly to get an interview with our child’s class teacher, only to be fobbed off to the principal every time.  When we asked about how they managed things with students in school, we were fobbed off and not given any information.  We were consistently treated as though we were at fault, no matter how we approached the teacher – and we did try what was mentioned above.  However, in our case it didn’t work, despite our best efforts and we ended up having to take our child out of that school.  I guess what I’m saying is that this is good advice, but it may not always work, so be prepared to take an alternative path if you need to.

    Reply

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