I do NOT consider myself an expert on parenting by any stretch of the imagination, but I want to share something that I feel could be a pivotal point in my daughter’s growth.
My daughter is 13.
I have tried to model and explain to both of my children the importance of taking up for someone if they feel they are being treated poorly or bullied. Speak up. Tell someone. Step in if it is safe to do so.
The beginning of this week, my daughter witnessed a teacher speaking unfairly to a student who was struggling to stay calm and quiet in the classroom. The teacher was using humiliating words to this student, in front of their peers, instead of taking the kid aside. My daughter’s heart was breaking for this kid, who repeatedly apologized, “I’m sorry” to which the teacher said “You’re not sorry at all, you are ALWAYS talking, you can’t control yourself”
Since it was said in such an open manner, the interchange became a student vs teacher debate on whether a teacher has a right to tell a student they need to be on medication for ADHD. It was obvious to the class that this kid was feeling pretty attacked and defeated. I know I would be, and I am 51 years old.
Several of the kids in the class ARE on medication, my daughter included. It helps her tremendously to stay on task, and to control her “motormouth tendencies” which she inherited from me.
It escalated to the point where the teacher asked my daughter to leave her classroom. When my daughter then asked if she could go see the principal, the request was denied. She sat in the hall outside her classroom, despite mentioning it is her right to go to the principal’s office if she feels she needs to.
I get it. A classroom of 13-year-old kids, mostly girls, can be a pretty obnoxious place I would assume. I only have 1, and when she has 2 friends over, it requires headphones and calming music.
I am not going to go into detail about what was said to my daughter by this teacher, but “take your opinion to a march” and “I don’t care about your opinion” were just a few hurled at her angrily, as described by witnesses.
I am not at all suggesting that if a teacher reprimands a student who is being disruptive to the learning environment that other students should “rise up and protest”.
I am a firm believer in respecting teachers. They are underpaid for all the shit they have to deal with, the endless hours they put in, and good ones can really impact a child’s life. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who go into this profession, I sure as shit couldn’t do it, especially today when cell phones, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube are pretty hard to compete with.
I was 13 in the 80’s when corporal punishment was pretty normal at school. Fighting or arguing with a teacher ONCE resulted in a phone call to mom and suspension. And trust me when I tell you, my mom’s face when she picked me up would send chills up your spine.
If clear boundaries and behavior expectations are set, they need to be adhered to. Kids are going to chat during class, but a strong leader can curtail that in a way that is impactful. Telling a kid in front of their peers that they need to be on ADHD medication if they can’t control themselves doesn’t fall into that category.
What happened yesterday is something I am incredibly proud of. My daughter went into the principal’s office and detailed the events from a few days before. She felt it was unjust, she felt it was to be considered a bullying incident, and she had hopes of coming up collectively with a solution.
The principal and the school counselor arranged a meeting with the teacher in question for lunchtime. My daughter texted me to tell me it was happening, and when asked, said she could “handle it herself”.
I read self-help books voraciously and am always looking for ways to improve my toolbox as a coach.
One of those books is called “Never Split the Difference” written by Chris Voss, a former FBI lead kidnapping and hostage negotiator.
Sounds boring, but I gotta tell ya, it’s full of nuggets to use when entering into ANY negotiation, disagreement, or teacher conference. It is really a great book for anyone, but parents, check it out.
I have shared and used some of these nuggets with my kids, and one particular one was very effective for my 13-year-old, going into a meeting with 3 adults.
“The moment a negotiation turns into an argument, it fails”
I reminded her of this, by sending it to her before she walked in the meeting. I also reminded her that the one who keeps their cool is going to be regarded as the mature one. (and that’s how most 13-year olds wish to be regarded)
She spoke her truth.
She did not get emotional.
She did not interrupt.
She handled herself in a very mature manner.
She kept her voice even and calm.
She allowed the teacher to get upset, but she did not.
The principal and the school counselor observed this interchange, and were shocked when the teacher angrily blurted out, pointing at my daughter, “You are the reason I hate coming into that class, and I wake up dreading coming in to school, knowing I have to see you 8th period”
The Principal and counselor both told me they were shocked and appalled, they had attempted to prepare this teacher for the meeting, and thought she was prepared to handle it more professionally.
Both the principal and the counselor contacted me and profusely apologized. I explained to them that they had no reason to apologize, they had done the right thing.
They also complimented my child’s “poise and restraint” and her “ability to voice her opinions, and be vulnerable with her emotions” “she displayed strong leadership skills, a huge heart for others, and a quick mind”
Talk about a proud parent.
My point is not to brag on my child, or brag on my parenting, but to share a successful lesson. I could have stormed up to school, hair on fire, and demanded justice for my kid.
Instead I trusted my daughter. I gave her the tools to go in there and do it on her own. To be her own advocate, and to earn respect. To display her maturity.
If she had something to apologize for, apologize.
Own up to it.
Seek solutions rather than looking for who to blame.
Kindness and calm ALWAYS wins.
Stick up for your friends.
Don’t expect to act like an asshole and be treated fairly.
I feel confident that my daughter will ask me if she needs help, and I am learning to ask her if she wants my help with something, instead of swooping in.
I am still going to give advice while allowing her to handle situations and learn from them. Isn’t that the best way for her to see her own powers and abilities?
I call that a win for both of us.