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.
- 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.”)
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- Ask questions. Inquire about how staff-student relational issues are typically managed in the teacher’s classroom and in the school.
- 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.
- Offer assistance. Directly ask how you may help. A short brainstorm session with the teacher may prove invaluable.
- 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.
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.