When Ju­nior hates the teacher

Here’s what to do when your kids don’t click with their teacher.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.AGE - By DARAH ZELEDON

Here’s what to do when your kids don’t click with their teacher.

THE alarm sounds just be­fore dawn. Sleep­de­prived par­ents ev­ery­where stum­ble into their kitchens to guz­zle cof­fee and muster up the strength to con­front their cranky lethar­gic lion cubs, deep in slum­ber. This typ­i­cal sce­nario oc­curs in many house­holds, day af­ter day, and all par­ents share sim­i­lar com­plaints. It’s time to wake up your kid for school and he doesn’t want to go.

A lucky few par­ents have the type of kid that arises with gusto and full of pos­i­tive en­ergy ready to em­brace the day. Then there’s the kid that re­mains in a stu­por un­til well af­ter ar­riv­ing at school. Fi­nally, there’s the child that falls some­where in be­tween. How­ever, many are also blessed with “the de­fi­ant one”, the child that leaves par­ents drained as the but­ton is stuck on rewind and the same bat­tle is fought over again each morn­ing. He hates his teacher and re­fuses to get up. But there is some­thing more go­ing on here, and par­ents need to be sen­si­tised to what is re­ally hap­pen­ing “be­hind the scenes.”

Dig deeper and don’t un­der­mine in­struc­tor’s author­ity: Par­ents need to iden­tify the ba­sic premise as to why the child doesn’t “like the teacher” or want to go to school. The prob­lem ei­ther has to do with the in­struc­tor di­rectly or a per­sonal prob­lem the child is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing within the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment. This can be any­thing rang­ing from bul­ly­ing, an un­di­ag­nosed hear­ing prob­lem or learn­ing dis­abil­ity, peer pres­sures, sleep de­pri­va­tion or work­load is­sues.

Stay ob­jec­tive

It’s cru­cial that the par­ents try to re­main ob­jec­tive, prag­matic and not “jump the gun”. The worst thing par­ents can do is val­i­date their child’s neg­a­tive feel­ings to­ward the author­ity fig­ure prior to the cul­mi­na­tion of a proper “in­ves­ti­ga­tion”.

James Lehman, a be­havioural ther­a­pist and author of the Be­hav­ioral Mod­i­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram, The To­tal Trans­for­ma­tion em­pha­sises: “When you side with your chil­dren, you are ac­tu­ally un­der­min­ing your own author­ity in the process. ... It’s a mis­take to den­i­grate author­ity fig­ures with your chil­dren, even if you agree with them. Keep the fo­cus on the mat­ter at hand, and off your child’s feel­ings about their teacher.”

Lehman tells it like it is. He in­sists that “al­most ev­ery kid will even­tu­ally have a teacher they don’t like, but that’s not an ex­cuse for them to refuse to fol­low the rules of the class­room.” To be suc­cess­ful in the real world, these kids will have to deal with all kinds of peo­ple and its best that they learn this fact of life now.

Par­ents can lend sup­port by tak­ing an ac­tive role in their child’s ed­u­ca­tion and es­tab­lish a part­ner­ship with the school. Cre­at­ing vi­able al­liances with key play­ers that have di­rect in­volve­ment with the child – be it the ac­tual teacher, a guid­ance coun­selor, prin­ci­pal or li­brar­ian – will ad­vo­cate for your child from the other side. If the child still in­sists that the prob­lem is the teacher, once all other op­tions have been elim­i­nated, per­haps it’s nec­es­sary that a par­ent sit in on the class­room and ob­serve, sug­gests Lehman.

Prob­lem-solv­ing skills

Teach the child ef­fec­tive prob­lem-solv­ing skills and make him take re­spon­si­bil­ity: It all boils down to chil­dren’s prob­lem-solv­ing skills and their need to learn about re­spon­si­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity, ac­cord­ing to ther­a­pist Lehman. Avoid­ance of school is ac­tu­ally a cop­ing method many chil­dren adopt to make the prob­lem dis­ap­pear. For ex­am­ple, Lehman as­serts that it’s best to com­bat a child’s cry of “bore­dom” with the re­al­ity that they have to go to school even when bored. That’s their re­spon­si­bil­ity. “It’s not about your mood, it’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity...” pur­ports Lehman. Once this sense of ac­count­abil­ity is in­stilled and re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions are con­sist-

Fac­ing the con­se­quences

Iden­tify ap­pro­pri­ate mo­ti­va­tors and con­se­quences: Frankly, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans awake each morn­ing for work, whether or not they re­ally want to. These folks have in­ter­nalised that the con­se­quences of not do­ing so could be as se­vere as los­ing their jobs, not be­ing able to feed their fam­i­lies, or go­ing home­less. Thus, Lehman rec­om­mends that “... the same mo­ti­va­tion and con­se­quences ap­ply to your child when he doesn’t want to go to school, and he needs to be taught this at an early age. The key is not get­ting into a power strug­gle with the child, and ef­fec­tively con­nect­ing the con­se­quence to the sit­u­a­tion.”

Set­ting lim­its and let­ting the child face the con­se­quences for his ac­tions: Lehman as­sures that a child not want­ing to go to school is symp­to­matic of that kid’s in­abil­ity to “meet his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties over­all in school or at home.” This is a prob­lem that has to be ex­am­ined un­der the mi­cro­scope as par­ents need to as­sess and re-eval­u­ate how their child han­dles re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in gen­eral. Per­haps it’s time to re-set lim­its and if the ex­pec­ta­tions are not met, the child must face the nat­u­ral con­se­quences and re­sult­ing fail­ure, be it the case.

As par­ents, it’s dif­fi­cult to adapt a more pas­sive role in our child’s devel­op­ment, but in the long-run, the con­se­quence of not do­ing so could do more harm than good. Some­times we should avoid shield­ing the child from the costs of his own de­struc­tive be­hav­ior. Ad­di­tion­ally, ther­a­pist Lehman con­tends that “par­ents should work on ac­cept­ing that as chil­dren be­come teenagers and young adults, the re­spon­si­bil­ity, the ac­count­abil­ity and the so­cial con­se­quences falls more on them than on you. He ad­vises: “Do the very best you can, and then ac­cept what you have no con­trol over.” Eas­ier said than done?

As a so­ci­ety, we do lit­tle to up­hold Lehman’s “tough love the­ory”. Our cul­ture pro­mul­gates the con­cept that “kids should not be held ac­count­able for not meet­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties”. This phe­nom­e­non has been born out of the psy­cho­log­i­cal analy­ses of all the whys that jus­tify and ex­plain away the kid’s de­fi­ant con­duct. In or­der to get kids to do the hard work and learn the ap­pro­pri­ate sur­vival skills, they need to have a pre­dictable and trans­par­ent mo­ti­va­tion/con­se­quence sys­tem in op­er­a­tion — es­tab­lished jointly by the par­ents and the school.

Straight-talk­ing ex­pert Lehman con­cludes: “As an ed­u­ca­tional cul­ture, we have ac­cepted the myth that kids don’t ben­e­fit from be­ing held sternly ac­count­able. The ac­cep­tance of this myth is pro­duc­ing so much medi­ocrity in our teenagers and young adults.”

By be­ing over­pro­tec­tive par­ents and seek­ing to save our kids from them­selves, we may in­ad­ver­tently be caus­ing ir­repara­ble dam­age – namely, as­sist­ing them carve out a bleak fu­ture: one of de­pen­dence pre­cip­i­tated by an im­ma­ture and un­der­de­vel­oped work ethic. – McClatchyTri­bune News Ser­vice

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