Support Your Local Teacher

by Keith McCurdy

Ahh!  School has started.  The children are occupied for the day.  Bedtimes are in force again and all is right with the world.  Now comes one of the most important tasks…uphold the authority of your child’s teacher.  “What?”  “Are you serious?”  As one mother asked me recently, when in the first week of school her little angel had gotten in trouble for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “He really didn’t do it.” “It was an accident.” “The teacher really is picking on him from the get go just because of what she heard about him from last year.”


In our children’s lives, the most significant authority figures they will encounter in their early years are us, the parents.  The second are their teachers.  Being the first, we have the ability to either support or completely undermine a teacher’s authority and management of our children.  Oh, I know.  I hear stories all of the time about this teacher and that and how terrible they are or how unfairly they have dealt with this kid or that kid.

In more than twenty years of being in private practice, I have yet to come across a teacher that is in it to make a kid’s life miserable.   I am not saying that a teacher does not make mistakes.  We as parents make mistakes.  But when we make a mistake we don’t assume that we are now somehow disqualified or unable to continue parenting our children.  Yet when we perceive that a teacher makes a mistake, whether imagined or real, that is it.  They are now off the list as anyone who has anything useful to say or do regarding our child.

The problem is a matter of focus.  Today’s parent is overly focused on having little Johnny master everything possible in the academic realm prior to kindergarten.  There is this notion, fully supported by the culture, that the more a child  is “prepared” by knowing how to read, write, speak Spanish, etc., the more successful he will be in school.  Here is the problem with that: It isn’t true.

The level of a child’s educational achievements, prior to first grade, do not necessarily indicate success in the academic environment.  Unfortunately though, because of the over focus on such things, we have children showing up in school reading and writing and discussing the works of Shakespeare, but they lack respect for authority.  Guess what does correlate with success in school – a healthy respect for authority, especially female authority!

A few months ago I was speaking on parenting and had a group of teachers in the room.  The number one problem that they face every day had nothing to do with a child’s ability to read or write.  As one teacher put it, “I can handle that.  That is what I am trained to deal with.”  “I just pray for kids that know how to behave.”  Any time I have asked this question over the last twenty years, the answer is always the same.

For years we have bought into a humanistic,  psychological mess of poor reasoning and have been sending our “little angels” to school unprepared for that setting.  It is our fault.  The only solution is for us to change it now.

No, I am not saying don’t read to Junior each night.  What I am suggesting is that until Junior demonstrates basic manners and the proclivity to obey in a consistent manner; little focus should be put on academic affairs other than what a teacher directs.  When a call or note comes home from school about the little angel’s behavior, do not entertain the explanation (kid code-word for excuse) – punish them accordingly.  Then give the teacher a call and let him or her know that you appreciate the communication and that you are taking steps to ensure that this behavior does not repeat itself in the classroom.  This will relieve a ton of stress for that teacher who often will be on pins and needles expecting a negative response from a parent.

Communicate to your child that their teacher is your partner in their educational journey and that you will support one another both in academic achievements and catching them when they misbehave.  The word of the teacher is law, just as the word of mom or dad is law at home.  Do not disparage the teacher in front of your child.  If there ever is an issue to deal with regarding the teacher, do it without the child being aware.  In general though, trust the judgment of your child’s teachers.

Regarding the mom at the beginning of the article; Johnny shouldn’t have been in the wrong place, he probably did actually do it (at least 95% of the time), accidents still have consequences and if his behavior was truly problematic last year, a teacher needs to know that.

Yes, yes, I often hear that all of this is because Johnny is just a born leader… and that may be true.  But, to lead effectively, one must first learn to follow.  Above all else: Support your local teacher!

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