Your child comes home in tears. Something happened at school with her classroom teacher. Immediately you try to comfort her, but as she tells you the story, the mama bear inside of you wants to roar! How dare that happen to your little girl!
You want to shield her.
You want to fight for her.
You want to make everything better.
But, what do you do? Reach for the phone to call the principal? Pull up an e-mail to request a meeting with the teacher?
May I make another suggestion?
As a former educator, I have been on the other side of this dilemma. So this would be my advice:
Teach your child to be an advocate for herself with these simple steps. Even a child as young as six can learn to advocate in a respectful way. Here’s how you can help, while still fighting for her.
Take a breath.
There are two sides to every story. And although we love our children dearly and will always be on their “side,” they may have misunderstood a situation. So before rushing to conclusions or opinions, breathe. Sometimes it’s best to sleep on it. By the next morning, even your child may have forgotten about it. But if not . . .
Let your child take ownership of the situation.
Teacher unfair with a grade? Have your child talk to the teacher in a polite, respectful way. Role play and practice with them what they could say. It could look something like this:
Child: Mrs. Henderson, could I talk to you about my grade?
Teacher: Sure. What would you like to know?
Child: I worked really hard on this project, and I don’t think I deserve this grade.
Teacher: I could tell you worked really hard on this project, and I appreciate your effort. The assignment asked for you to write five sentences, and you only wrote one. That is why you got a lower grade.
Child: Is there anything I can do to make it up? What can I do better next time?
(Teachers love these questions! They show that your child wants to improve.)
Do send an e-mail (or whatever the teacher’s preferred method of contact is) to your child’s teacher to let them know that your child is planning on talking to them about the incident. Then, talk to your child and ask how it went. What did the teacher say? Does the child think the incident has been remedied?
Hopefully, that’s the end of the problem. However, if the situation is still bothersome to your child and you feel as though your child is not being heard, now it’s time to . . .
Call or request a meeting with the teacher. Remember, stay open-minded. Your child’s version of the story is just one side. Let the teacher explain the situation from his or her perspective before you advocate for your child. You may agree with the teacher! Come up with a plan together as, more than likely, you both just want the best for your child. And, if possible, once you have come up with an agreed solution with the teacher, let your child hear it from BOTH you and the teacher. It sends the message that everyone is on the same team. Everyone is cheering for your child.
But if you still think the problem is not being dealt with appropriately by the teacher then . . .
Ask for help.
Are you still not satisfied? Is there another child hitting your child and the teacher doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem? This is the time to pull in a principal or other authority figure in the school. You’ve coached your child to advocate for herself. Nothing seemed to change. You had a meeting with the teacher. It didn’t seem to help. Now you can confidently go to the principal knowing you’ve exhausted all other options. Explain the situation and come up with a plan that will support your child. Because after all, you are your child’s best advocate. And YOU are the best role model to show her how to advocate for herself.
These steps seem simple, but they can help give your child confidence, autonomy, and help her learn to solve problems in a logical manner. As parents, we won’t always be there for our children once they’re “grown.” But we can teach them to stand up for themselves while they are young, still protected by our mama bear hugs.