Dear Kid Whisperer,
I am really frustrated with my son’s school. He is in 3rd grade and every week or so they call me to tattle on my son. They call me to tell me that he isn’t listening, or that he isn’t doing his work. Yesterday, they called after school to tell me that he was being disruptive. Sometimes it’s the teacher, sometimes it’s the principal, but they keep calling and they have suggested that I give him a consequence. Isn’t that their job? He is generally OK at home, and when he’s not, there are consequences. I’m not sure how to deal with this. -Cheyenne, Dayton, Ohio
It is the teacher or principal’s job to provide consequences for problems that he causes at school, and your job to provide consequences for problems that he causes at home. It looks like you have two tasks: have a helpful, clear, supportive, limit setting phone conversation with the school, and then have the same kind of conversation with your kid. Here’s how I would have these conversations. Notice that I don’t blame anyone, excuse my kid’s actions, tell anyone to do anything, or question anyone’s efficacy.
Principal: Your son did bad things today at school! What are you going to do about it?!?!?
Kid Whisperer: Oh dear. I want to support you in every way I can that does not violate my value structure. I want you to know that I will support any and all logical consequences that you and his teacher create for him regarding this or any other infraction. I know that my son learns best by suffering the consequences of his actions.
Principal: BAD THINGS!!! Very, very bad!
Kid Whisperer: Through using consequences at home, he has learned not to try many negative behaviors. I know that sometimes educators are afraid of using consequences for fear of what parents would say. I want you to know that I will support your logical consequences, because I know that they work at home. From now on please know that I will consequence Kid for problems that he causes at home, and I will support you if you choose to use consequences at school. For instance, I am about to give Kid a consequence for me having to spend time talking on the phone about his behavior. Thank you so much for everything you do for your students.
Kid Whisperer turns to Kid.
Kid Whisperer: Ugh. Unfortunately, I just had to take my time and energy to discuss your behavior with your principal. I was planning on cleaning the tub and the kitchen tonight. Since I no longer have the necessary energy to do those things, I’m going to have you do them for me.
Kid: But I thought we were going to go to a movie tonight.
Kid Whisperer: That would have been nice. Unfortunately, I am too tired to go to the movies. I’m just going to watch TV in my room. You know where the cleaning supplies are. I love you no matter what.
By handling it this way, you are not owning the school’s responsibilities, and you are still holding your son responsible for causing a problem—for you.