A lot has been said in the past few days about whether or not the tone of political discourse should be softened. While I think it’s a mistake to attribute the recent violence in Arizona to strident politicians and talk-show hosts, the topic of how we speak to one another bears examination.
Most of us have heard, and probably told our children, that famous quote by Thumper in Bambi, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” However, I fear many adults have forgotten this axiom, at least in certain situations.
I’m thinking especially and particularly about the way parents sometimes speak with their children’s teachers, coaches, and school administrators. All to often, otherwise gracious and civil adults forget any sense of respect and propriety when it comes to issues related to their children.
There are certainly times when we must very carefully ask questions of those with whom we have entrusted our children many hours of each day, and unfortunately, there have been instances—in many cases well-publicized—in which those in such positions have grossly violated the trust placed in them, resulting in devastating consequences. However, this is not the norm; surely it would be better to assume the best, give the person in question the benefit of the doubt, and, with the utmost respect and deference, speak to them regarding your concerns. A bit of distance, both in time and emotion, from the issue in question can often bring a lot of clarity.
Working in partnership with those responsible for the educating of your child, believing he or she is doing their best and has your child’s best interest at heart rather than assuming the worst, is truly one of the most powerful and effective things a parent can do to further their child’s education. The sense of strength and solidarity that comes from this kind of joint commitment to the child’s growth and well-being is empowering to both student and teacher, and makes it possible for a good teacher to move towards being a really great one!
When you have the opportunity, thank your child’s teacher, coach or principal. Avoid listening to negativity and complaints from other parents. When your child complains about being singled out by the teacher for “unfair” treatment, don’t automatically indict the teacher. Step back and think through the situation–remember your own tendency, as a child, to exaggerate in order to hide your own foolishness, failure to pay attention, or turn in an assignment. Give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. Let your child know that you trust the teacher, while assuring him that you take his or her concerns seriously and will speak with the teacher to work through the problem. Not only will you have demonstrated a very adult and civilized way of communicating and working through difficulties, you will make your child a much more confident and capable human being, able to accept responsibility for his or her own actions, and able to rely on, trust, and learn from the adults in his life!