7 Things to Do When a Teacher Calls Home

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When a teacher calls home, it can be a scary experience for a child, and even scarier for a parent. You may be put in a vulnerable and defensive position, especially if you're not seeing the same unruly behavior at home. However, calmly addressing the issue with a teacher will help solve the problem and teach your child about healthy ways to resolve conflict. So take a deep breath and tackle the situation with these tips.

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By Lori Calabrese

When a teacher calls home, it can be a scary experience for a child—and even scarier for a parent. You may be put in a vulnerable and defensive position, especially if you're not seeing the same unruly behavior at home. However, calmly addressing the issue with a teacher will help solve the problem and teach your child about healthy ways to resolve conflict. So take a deep breath and tackle the situation with these tips.

Don't Get Defensive

Your first instinct may be to get defensive or deflect blame. However, butting heads with school staff is not only unproductive, it can cause unnecessary tension with your child's educator. “The parent must commit to seeing her child's behavior from the teacher's perspective,” says Bill Corbett, author of Love, Limits, & Lessons and the executive director of discipline training organization Cooperative Kids. Remind yourself that simply addressing a problem is not an attack on your parenting techniques.

Isolate What's Wrong

Take time to clarify the behavioral problem with the teacher before discussing a solution. Listening to an explanation of the context in which the problem occurs will not only help you cool down, it can also shed light on a possible solution to the problem. Corbett suggests, “Ask the teacher to describe specific behaviors she has seen so that the parent can identify and watch for them in the home setting.”

Evaluate Reasons for Bad Behavior

You know your child better than anyone, and can advocate for his needs, so it's your job to get to the root of the problem. Think of things that might be influencing your child's behavior, such as changes at home, marital issues, trouble sleeping, and a bad diet.

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Devise a Plan to Create Change

Once you get the facts, ask the teacher what you can do to help, and find out what has already been done. Then make a plan together. What would you two like to see your child doing in a few weeks? A month? Suggest ways the teacher can help in the classroom, and listen to her suggestions for changes you can make at home. You may think you know best, but remember—teachers have ample experience dealing with bullying and other problems.

Talk to Your Child

Ask how he sees the problem and listen to his opinion. Take his version of the story seriously. You may discover why he is misbehaving or that he doesn't know what behavior is expected of him. Explain why his actions were unacceptable, and make it clear you won't tolerate mischief during class.

Confessions and Consequences

If your child admits he acted badly, it's important to have him apologize to anyone he may have hurt, and suffer the consequences of his actions, whether that means taking away a favorite toy or banning TV for the week. On the other hand, if he comes clean right away be sure to thank him for being honest. When he knows you're concerned and you want to work together, he may be more willing to change.

Arrange to Follow Up

Consider meeting with the teacher, principal, or school psychologist to stay on top of the situation. Creating a unified front with educators will encourage both sides to effectively address any future problems, and work together to find solutions. If necessary, the school can also point you in the direction of alternative resources outside of school to help your kid deal with any emotional issues he may have.

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A disciplinary phone call isn't the end of the world—in fact, finding out about your child's misbehavior can help you fix a potential problem he could be silently struggling with. So the next time school calls, work with the staff to develop a plan of action to help your child realize his potential, both in the class and outside of it.

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