When your child is younger, the idea of facilitating the student-teacher relationship might not have crossed your mind. What’s to worry about when the first grade teacher is so dear and your child is so happy and learning? But as your child gets older, school is about more than academic subjects. It’s socialization, relationships and work ethics — and sometimes even conflicts with teachers.
Your child is not going to “like” every teacher he or she has through her education. Establishing a relationship with someone is not always based on “like.” It’s not Facebook! Helping your child learn to manage relationships with teachers — both the liked ones and the not so liked ones — is a skill that will translate to the rest of their lives.
Beyond Kindergarten hugs
During the early elementary years teacher-student relationships tend to be based on whether your child thinks a teacher is “nice.” Your child may have a lot of affection for a teacher, and the teacher for her students. Occasionally there is a personality clash in this age group, and it’s definitely when a parent should be heavily involved. Although you can try to coach your child into preferred behavior during interactions, your child is still a child — and that teacher, as an adult, needs to take much of the responsibility for the dynamic.
Middle school weaning
When your child heads into the middle school years, the schools work towards weaning you off of constant teacher interaction. They are not only trying to teach the students academic subjects, but also how to manage their own educational careers. More will be asked of your child in terms of seeking our information from teachers and peers — and more will be asked of you to back off a bit.
As your child begins this process, you can ask questions about the interactions and make suggestions. For example, if your child gets a quiz back that has a lower score than expected and he or she (and you) doesn’t understand why, you need to coach your child about how to approach the teacher to gain a better understanding. You can suggest your child say something like, “Mrs. Smith, I would like to understand why I was marked down here. Can you please explain it to me?” Marching in yourself and demanding an answer is not the way to go — well, at least not at first. And please, no trashing the teacher in front of your child. Act with respect all around.
That said, if there is a real ongoing conflict with a teacher, you may need to get involved and involve members of the administration to sort through the problem
During the teen years, your child — well, not quite a child but not quite an adult — needs to take more responsibility for his or her academic career and his or her relationships with teachers. Your teen needs to understand that his or her attitude and behavior affects the relationship with the teacher, and he or she needs to take responsibility for his or her role in interactions — and conflicts.
Again, you can coach from the sidelines and make suggestions for interactions. At this age, if there is a problem with the dynamic, your teen should be the first one to seek help within the school system for the issue. If the issue continues, then you can get more involved. Coaching — really, teaching — your child how to manage the relationships is what you are after, not fighting battles for them.
Real world lessons
You are not always going to be around to negotiate relationship dynamics or take care of conflicts for your child. As your child heads off to college and to jobs and to life, there will be conflicts with professors, roommates, managers, coworkers and neighbors, just to name a few. Coaching your child through some of these early power relationships can be critical to helping them develop problem-solving skills, as well as getting the most out of their educations.