Parenting Through the Eyes of a Teacher

Originally published on myRegence.com

Parenting Through the Eyes of a Teacher*

In twelve years of teaching, I’ve worked with over a thousand parents, yet the parents I see the most, unfortunately, have children in trouble. Working with parents during troubled times has allowed me to see parenting at its best and worst. While most parents mean well, teachers see a clear distinction between negative and positive parenting choices.

“Negative” Parenting Choices

The two negative parenting choices I’ve seen most often are what I call “The Denial Syndrome” and “The Buddy Syndrome.” The Denial Syndrome is the inability of some parents to admit that there is a problem with their child’s behavior, study habits, or decision-making skills. These parents immediately assume any problem involving their child is someone else’s fault: the school, teachers, or administrators. They desperately strive to blame someone else and refuse to hold themselves or their child responsible.

The Buddy Syndrome is the strong need of some parents to feel love and acceptance from their children. These parents don’t enforce consequences. They let their child “off easy” and undermine the real-world lesson that poor decisions will lead to unpleasant consequences. A parent once exhibited both syndromes when he came to pick up his son from an after-school study session (a consequence of the student skipping classes). He scoffed at the “unfair” punishment his son endured  (saying “Boys will be boys”), kept calling his son “Buddy,” and promised to “make it up to him” by going to his favorite restaurant for dinner.

“Positive” Parenting Choices

The easiest parents for a teacher to work with will deal with problems and see their child as a joyful yet substantial responsibility. I call them Long-Haul parents—parents who know that fulfilling their parenting duties today results in responsible adults in the future. Long-Haul parents feel that consequences are a fair result of poor decisions and their goal is not to be their kids’ best friend. Long-Haul parents know their children look up to them, respect them, and love them, even when rules are enforced and boundaries set.

My favorite parental response to an angry child’s “I hate you” is: “That’s fine. I don’t need another friend. My job isn’t for you to always like me; my job is to help you grow and learn responsibility.” Being a Long-Haul parent—enforcing consequences, being strict but fair, and forgoing the need for a child’s acceptance—is difficult. This is why the Denial and Buddy Syndromes occur so often; they are the paths of least resistance.

For Denial and Buddy Syndromes Parents, there are ways to start becoming Long-Haul Parents. Begin to trust the teachers helping you raise your children. They are on your and your child’s side. Also, don’t mistake the love and acceptance of your child for the kind of friendships you should have with your peers. Whenever you feel the urge to “give in” or “make friends,” ask yourself this question: “Is it more important for my child to like me in this moment or to have the skills for a successful adult life?” Parents need to see the long-haul role they have in their child’s life for what it is: a guardian, an advisor, and a role model.

*(added 3/21/10 and not a part of the original Regence post): I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend a six-week parenting course entitled “Direction With Dignity” (the original name was “Discipline Without Damage” and the website still reflects this… but the content is the same). The course is run by Calvin and Carolyn Richert and they gave me a lot of new ways to talk about this topic. I strongly encourage anyone interested in learning more about how to view: “discipline as ‘positive guidance’ rather than ‘punishment.’ Its mission is to train adults in the use of positive guidance tools that encourage the inner growth of children.” Click here for the source of this quote.

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