The Parent Syndrome: Meltdowns in Education


The Blame Game: Pointing Fingers

Don’t Blame the Teachers! Blame the Parents!

Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? 

A terrible thing:  no one to blame.  ~Erica Jong

Truth be told, I rarely ever had to deal with the dreaded P word: Parents. Being a Drama Specialist CERTIFIED teacher, I mainly saw the parents of my Drama Club, and they were the supportive ones. I saw the one or two disgruntled NOT MY CHILD! Parents over the years, but I learned how to build relationships with them.  We talked about why I graded them the way I did, we discussed, etc. I really only had one parent walk away that her child’s behavior (poor) was my fault, even though she said the kid  did the same at home. If you just went “Huh?”..yeah, me too. There are a LOT of the clueless walking around.

When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.  ~Louis Nizer

I am going to admit something a good many of you might get upset with me about: after numerous attempts to get a cast of 44 quiet for starting the last dress rehearsal, and I mean NUMEROUS, I said the dreaded: “SHUT UP!!”  You may disagree with me, but guess what: after way over five mins (most likely more, not less), that “Shut Up!” got them quiet, and we were able to finally move on. So, call me Machiavelli if you must (and yes, I do know he is only credited with the saying), the means did justify the end result.  

Yes, string me up from the tallest yard arm, flog me, tar and feather me, but…really, I am very, very tired of the PC garbage. I am tired of educators (esp Elementary) babying the kids, which only reinforces the immaturity levels we have. I am tired that we have to be scared of parents, that instead of making working healthy partnerships, we have another adversarial situation more times than not.

I had a parent in my face yesterday about my “Shut Up!” While I DID apologize for saying what I did, she was not taking that, and I got a whole tirade on how unprofessional I am, how SHE would never do that (she’s a teacher in NYC DOE and has her own dance school), what a wonderful talented kid she has, and on and on and on..and really, all she wanted to do was tell me off. That’s ok in itself: she was angry. She was not into having a discussion, a dialogue. She wanted to vent on me, and she did.

Now, the fact that her daughter has back talked all the instructors and counselors, walks around in a mopey mood, complains about the food, the trips, the activities, the play, that she didn’t get the part she wants, that the part she got was “beneath her” (Mom’s words, not mine)…well, none of that mattered to Mom. When I did try to tell her that her kid’s audition on both audition days was subpar, no energy, no attempt, Mom then said: “Well, she didn’t work on her piece.”

OK..if you’re like me, you again just went “Huh?” Internally, I was thinking “Really? You’re telling me this kid has talent to spare, and you are stating this like you’re almost proud of it?”. I shrugged my shoulders when she said that and said: “well, there you go. it showed”…and that was that. She went ballistic on me. Unprofessional this, Unprofessional that…I should be fired, etc etc etc.

Guess who did not send her child in for the FIRST PAID PERFORMANCE? I had someone cover, who did an excellent job, and the girl was not missed in the slightest by the cast or anyone else.

Yup…call me unprofessional. If you are shaking your head, welcome to my world. If you think I’m the ONLY one to blame, then…I just shrugged my shoulders. Honestly.

Why did i write this? Because, yeah, I’m PO’d at her coming in shooting for bear instead of trying to have a discussion. The “not MY Child” just doesn’t cut it with me. I know I did “wrong” in what I yelled, and that I did yell…but, let’s move on. I apologized, what’s done is done…and i will be aware of it in the future.

But in schools, the “not MY child!’ syndrome hurts the child, the teacher and the rest of the class and the school community. It snowballs, because the kid is believed long before the situation is addressed, and then the teachers are the enemy, and the parents are the enemy, and the kids are the enemy… and it just snowballs.

Let’ sit down and talk like adults and treat each other like thinkers instead of trash. Going back to a previous post, this was a case of an Adult Bully.

8/11 NOTE: Holly, the first commenter, made me realize all I was, when writing this, was angry. I am NOT taking back what I said above, but tonight, when I get back from the second performance, I will write about Parents who BUILD and support on all counts, and I DO know…there are many, many, many of them out there. I shouldn’t give press to only the negative ones. I apologize if anyone who does walk the more positive path took offense. This was not directed to you.

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15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Holly Jahangiri
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 01:51:51

    I agree with you. Completely, on every point. But this is not true of every parent and teacher interaction or every instance of a parent saying, “Not MY child.” Let me give you a parent’s frustration, in return (part of having that “dialogue,” if you will). http://jahangiri.us/new/2009/07/04/breaking-promises-to-children/

    And while I realize that the subject of bullying is a bit off-topic, here, it’s most often the one that leaves me saying, “Not MY kid!” because we don’t spend our time provoking and picking on our kids at home.

    Here’s a post from a kid’s perspective – which adults sometimes forget: http://jahangiri.us/new/2010/10/11/a-kids-perspective/

    And here’s an even more serious one that delves into some of the reasons kids aren’t always the same at home and at school: http://jahangiri.us/new/2010/10/03/end-bullying-now-it-shouldnt-take-a-tragedy-or-seven/

    I’ve dealt with many teachers and administrators who’d rather take the easy way out and crack down on a good kid who’s been pushed into a corner too many times than to deal with a bad one and his parents (I realize that, too often, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree). I don’t have all the answers – I do know many of these difficult parents, too.

    Reply

    • bornstoryteller
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 06:30:20

      Holly..you are more than right in that I did NOT really talk about the parents who DO care, who are there for their kids. That is what the next post will be. I had to vent on what I see as one of the problems I’ve seen/heard about…and again, it’s one. I will do the “positive” spin on it tonight when I get home. Thanks.

      Reply

      • Holly Jahangiri
        Aug 11, 2011 @ 21:38:46

        You have every right to vent! (Plus, it’s YOUR blog… 🙂 I just wanted to share the other side of this – and I’m as frustrated with the kinds of parental behavior you’re describing here as you are, because it makes a serious “NOT my kid,” sound less credible. The knee-jerk reaction is, naturally, “Yeah, YOUR kid, and every other kid…” but some of us do know our kids well and will be the first to admit when the teacher’s RIGHT.

        I went to a parent/teacher meeting once (back when my son was in elementary) and had three teachers marveling over how different my son was when I was there. Um… No, I don’t have a magic clue. I don’t beat or threaten or bribe him. He’s not afraid of me (that much was obvious). He knows what I expect, but I honestly can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve had to yell or scold to get him to do what I asked of him. So if he’s different (less attentive, less well behaved, whatever), maybe it’s YOU. They asked me for suggestions. I suggested they remember who’s in charge of the classroom and figure it out. In short, I shrugged and said, “You’re the boss, you tell me – aside from reminding him of that, which I do daily, how can I help YOU?” They were STUNNED that I wasn’t trying to tell them how to run their class or how to “handle” my son. I wanted to say “It’s your JOB – do it!” but I didn’t. I could understand their frustration. At home, he doesn’t have anyone distracting or picking on him. It’s quiet. We’re respectful. Too easy, and far different from the classroom.

  2. Sharon Holzscherer
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 08:57:14

    Parents are people; teachers are people; and, children are people, too. None of us will like everyone else. None of us will get along with everyone. At least the first two groups should be mature enough to act professionally and respectfully. I say “should” because they often do not. There are limitless stories of bad parents and bad teachers. I have quite a few stories of my own. I have found over the years that conflict, whether with adults or children, is most often caused by a breakdown in communication. When difficult conversations are avoided because they are difficult. When assumptions are made (The most common and dangerous mistake!). When the “buck is passed”. Then conflict happens.

    During my workshop for teachers and administrators on how to deal with parents I stress that clear lines must be drawn from the very beginning. The classroom, school, whatever belongs to the teacher. The child belongs to the parents. Each has power and responsibility in their own arena. Be explicit about the expectations for behaviour and achievement. State clearly how parents can express a grievance. Leave time for discussions. The meltdowns on both sides will reduce.

    And if you are met with an impossible parent (teacher)who just needs to vent – let them vent, don’t take it personally, and get on with your job. You can’t win all of them. “Other people’s opinion of me is none of my business!”

    Reply

    • bornstoryteller
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 20:05:34

      hi Sharon: what I was more pissed off about is that MOM told her daughter not to come in yesterday. For someone who was yelling about how unprofessional I am, she did a HIGHLY unprofessional thing.

      Reply

  3. InJensMind
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 09:05:44

    What did you do so wrong? I’m still trying to figure out why “shut up” is a bad word. In fact I would like to know when exactly did shut up become a bad word. We are force-fed curse words and sexual content in the media every single day, it gets worse and worse yet shut up is a bad word…really???

    I stand by you 100% in yelling and saying what you did and here is why. Kids today have no respect and to no surprise their parents don’t either. All of them? NO but, more then not.

    Next, when I was a kid,(I almost said we but, let me break the generation gap down a bit more) shut up wasn’t a crime and neither was slapping your child’s mouth for backtalking an adult. Now all of a sudden people are freaking out because it’s abuse to do such things. I’m sorry but, these people have obviously never been abused in any form because that is definitely not abuse.

    Here’s another thing, why is it that when someone realizes they made an error, because humans do indeed make errors, that when they apologize it’s just not good enough? Seriously people need to step down off their soap boxes, pedestals, clouds or fairy-tale encrusted rainbows and realize that nobody is perfect and although our intentions are good we sometimes speak before thinking.

    People make me sick. The day these parents and teachers too, wake up and realize they as adults have a responsibility to the children in their care, will be the greatest day known to man. Teachers vs. Parents = the new divorced couple fighting for the kids affection. In the end who really is winning? Nobody!!!

    Reply

    • bornstoryteller
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 20:09:29

      I don’t believe in hitting, but…scaring the crap out of the kid now and then? Yes, sorry, I do. I got shit for scaring a kid straight about touching, and breaking something that kid had no right to touch. Guess what? The kid gave me a hug this morning and has NOT touched anything she was not supposed to in the last three days.

      Reply

    • Holly Jahangiri
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 21:42:05

      Shut up = telling Precious her ideas are not valued. Shut up = stifling Junior’s creative impulsivity. Shut up = authoritarian behavior in an “I’m okay, you’re wonderful, but nobody’s better than anyone else” world.

      Shut up as a “dirty word” is a lot of psychobabble, when the audience CLEARLY needs to STFU for the sake of learning.

      Reply

  4. Penelope J.
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 15:57:46

    No wonder you are venting. I’m furious for you. Here, you have addressed a key reason why kids in this country feel so entitled and have to be handled with velvet gloves. I’m with you 100% on shouting, “Shut up!” It’s not like you were cussing them out. The situation merited something like that and kids have to be shown who’s boss. “Would you please be quiet?” would get you nowhere. No wonder the educational system and many kids in this country are floundering in a mess often aided by blind-to-their-kids’-faults-or-failures parents with unreasonable expectations coupled with a politically correct to a fault system that often caters more to whiny kids and demanding parents.

    OK, this parent was only one out of many who may be completely different. I suppose there have and always will be that One Parent and that One Child who make the teacher’s life difficult, or who believe their child is a paragon of virtue or talent, and the teacher wrong for not recognizing this. (Actually, if you look around, it’s the same everywhere, in every business. That one client. That one customer.) However, those problems may blow up out of proportion when that One Parent becomes more than one, gains/has influence, makes her/himself heard and believed, wins a following, and manages to either obstruct the course of true education or even ruin an educator’s career..

    Reply

  5. Joy Page Manuel
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 18:53:07

    Yes, very good point that people should stop thinking of parents, students and teachers as each other’s enemies/ having adversarial relationships. Somehow did we all forget what Sesame Street taught us all at a very young age??….COOPERATION :-)) (And I also agree…Adult bullies are the worst!)

    Reply

    • bornstoryteller
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 20:07:24

      Adults and Teachers always ask the kids to get along, play well with others, share, etc…but: DO THEY FOLLOW THAT SAME ADVICE? Too many times, the answer is no. Thanks Joy.

      Reply

      • Holly Jahangiri
        Aug 11, 2011 @ 21:29:40

        Yep. I’ve had teachers tell me my son needed to “toughen up,” but the minute he tried to stand up for himself against the bullies, they cracked down on HIM. Not the bullies. So I told him next time he was picked on on the playground, to sit down at the teacher’s feet. That way, if provocation occurred, they’d be hard pressed to admit they never saw it. And they thought it odd, but one admitted to him and to me that it was a pretty effective strategy. It shouldn’t HAVE to be.

  6. successisthebestrevenge
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 10:10:50

    Mom may be a teacher; but I sense underlying issues. She has to identify her issues that seem to impact her parenting skills negatively. Being a teacher or other professional does not mean your child is an exception. I understand you used the “SHUT UP”. It was not a habit. It was not continuous. It was not profanity. Mom could have been receptive. Again; she has issues within herself.

    Reply

    • bornstoryteller
      Aug 14, 2011 @ 10:15:57

      Shirley, thank you. Yes, she had an axe to grind and was not into listening, discussing, etc. She was a bully and I had no patience or time for her Bullshit. I’ll tell her that to her face if I ever have the chance, now that that project is done. But, I get the feeling she is all big bluster and full of herself, so nothing would be accomplished if I vented on her.

      Reply

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