I hate my teacher,” Elora*, then 9, declared. But, when pressed for details, mom says Elora buried her head in her knees. So she tried a different approach. “I engaged her in a fun activity,” she says. “Then I light-heartedly asked questions like who she likes the most at school, who she likes the least – followed by, ‘Oh, how come?’ What I found out was that she felt like the teacher yelled at her.”
In order to reach a teacher-student conflict resolution, parents can do some detective work to figure out what exactly is going on in the child’s classroom. Here are eight helpful tips on how to handle conflict between your child and their teacher.
Why the grumbling? Adapting from a beloved former teacher’s style to a new teacher’s approach is a common culprit. Class size, peer competition and increased homework can fuel kids’ frustrations, too.
Do some digging. Allow your child time to adjust. If his complaints persist, ask objective questions, like: “How is the work for you? How are you getting along with the other kids?” That way, “You can get a flavor of the environment rather than the situation,” says Dr. Stephanie Mihalas, a nationally certified school psychologist in Los Angeles. “At that point, you have more information to call or email the teacher.”
Review work. Notice patterns like red marks and notes from the teacher on classwork. If your student struggles and seems afraid to ask questions, discuss appropriate times for her to talk to her teacher.
Make real-life connections. A child may grow disenchanted if she doesn’t understand how the subject matter relates to reality. That’s where a parent can help. On weekends, integrate classwork into your errands. For example, if your child is learning about the soil and climate in science, take him to the farmers market. Practice multiplication skills to tally up the tip at a restaurant. “Parents (then) become a partner with the teacher,” says Ashley Norris, Ph.D., dear of programmatic accreditation and regulatory affairs at the University of Phoenix and former assistant dean with the university’s College of Education. “The perception of the student-teacher relationship changes.”
Signs of a child-teacher conflict. “If grades are starting to slip, that’s a huge indicator,” Norris says. Ditto behavior changes like disengagement at school, forgetting homework and lack of effort.
Resolving a personality conflict. Rather than getting angry or defensive, take a calm, diplomatic approach with the teacher. Also, ask if you can sit in during class one day. “It will give you a flavor of how the teacher teaches,” Mihalas says.
Over the teacher’s head? Do it only a last resort! “One of the only times to bring in administration is if your child is covered by special education law and the teacher isn’t following special ed law,” Mihalas says. This also applies if the teacher agreed on a set of interventions, but isn’t following those strategies.
Stay the course. Sometimes personalities simply clash. Unless the teacher is abusive, help your child understand she’s not always going to like everyone. Stress the importance of remaining respectful and learning to manage differences.
Maybe it’s you that has a conflict with your child’s teacher. Here’s advice on how parents can deal with a difficult teacher.
Do you have any additional tips or advice to add to this list? Comment below and let us know your thoughts.
Illustration by Mino Watanabe.
This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for 2017.