There are phone calls nobody wants to get. The mechanic who says your transmission is shot. Your brother wants you to help him move a pool table. The doctor needs more tests. The teacher would like you to come in for a meeting about your child’s behavior.
When I was in junior high my recently widowed mother got more than her fair share of calls from the vice-principal. I’ll admit trouble did find me time and again…and again. My mom was convinced that the school had our phone number on speed dial.
Fortunately, there were adults in my life who knew how to love a kid who needed some extra love and discipline. Today I’m thankful for the administrators and counselors who worked with my mom to set me on a needed course correction.
Sometimes those dreaded phone calls (other than the one about moving the pool table) can turn out in the end to be positive.
Recently I sat down with some middle school deans (today’s vice-principals) and asked them what they wish parents knew about the role that they play in the lives of students and families. Here are the top ten things middle school deans want parents to know.
- Even really good kids can get in trouble at school – and that can be a good thing. As young people navigate the changes and pressures of middle school it is easy to get off track. Just because a young person meets the benchmarks in reading and math doesn’t mean that they have necessarily mastered the social skills to deal with someone who cuts in line at lunch. The life lessons they learn during this time can be invaluable.
- We are on your team. Sometimes students believe that we are out to get them when we call home about a behavior issue. There are also times when parent may feel that we are accusing them of being bad parents. Neither are true. Our hope is to partner with you to help your son or daughter learn valuable life lessons that will shape their character and help kids be the best people they can be.
- Most discipline situations can be handled with a little education and, if necessary, some sort of consequence. “Here is why what you did was inappropriate and here is how we are going deal with it.” Kids are going to make mistakes. It is important for kids to learn from them. We can work with a kid who is willing to own up to his or her mistakes. When the situation involves a teacher or other student we want to help find opportunities that will help rebuild a damaged relationship. It is much better for them to experience this in middle school than when they are adults.
- Schools are most effective with discipline when there is support from home. If parents, schools, and outside services work together, we can solve almost any problem a student is having. If parents don’t back us up at home, we don’t stand a chance. Natural consequences in middle school are there to teach and correct behavior. If students throws food at lunch, they may lose the privilege of eating lunch with their friends for a day or two. Your support of the consequence helps us help your child.
- Don’t judge a situation by just hearing your child’s side of the story. If your child comes home and tells you about something that happened at school, don’t jump to conclusions until you’ve done a little investigation on your own. Making sure you have the full picture will help you in making a sound decision on how to proceed. If you find you have a legitimate concern, we want to help make it right. Please don’t slam your teacher in front of your child, even if you believe the teacher was wrong. This may give the student the impression that it is okay to be rude or disrespectful.
- It’s okay to let your kids fail. Middle school is a perfect time to practice failing. You’d be surprised how many parents do their children’s homework. When your children were learning to walk, you let them fall down so they could learn to pick themselves back up. If you step in every time your children forget to turn in a paper or fail a test, you are not allowing them to figure out for themselves how to get back up.
- In most cases, there is no excuse for bad behavior. One of the greatest problems facing schools today is general disrespect. This is the reason many wonderful teachers simply quit. It is important for parents to communicate to their children that it is NEVER okay to disrespect a teacher – even the ones you don’t like. There are times a student or parent will defend a behavior because of some situation or disability. It doesn’t help your child to excuse bad behavior. Kids know right from wrong as young as three years old. This is an incredible opportunity to practice self-control.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We have an enormous number of resources at our disposal. We love it when we can be part of the solution. Also, most of us have been around thousands of kids for many years. We may have some ideas that other parents have found successful and we’d love to share with you. If your school administrators suggest further intervention or resources that might help your child, please listen to them. If they suggest bringing something up with your pediatrician, please do it. You can then use the information to make a wise decision regarding your child.
- Sometimes even the best teachers and administrators blow it. We might not be the person we strive to be day in and day out. There are times when exhaustion and our lack of patience come out at the wrong time. We need your understanding and forgiveness.
- Your kid is exposed to more than you might think. Research shows that kids as young as 8 years old are exposed to pornography and violence on computers and smart phones. Parents would be wise to control their child’s screen time. We are constantly dealing with the effects and impact of social media such as kids coming to school exhausted because they secretly stay up watching programs on phones. We also deal with issues that arise when a student posts something online that hurts someone else. Wise parents are not afraid to control and even take away their child’s phone or computer if it is interfering with school.
I wish I had this list when my sons were going through middle school. I’m grateful to all the truly caring and wonderful people who choose to work with kids each day.
Perhaps the most important thing that I heard from these educators is that they are not your adversaries, but your partners. They are a valuable resource and are willing to help kids and parents in any way they can.
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority,
because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.
Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden,
for that would be of no benefit to you.
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn
Father of two sons
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries