My son came home in tears yesterday, claiming that his teacher insulted him. I want to believe this is not the case, but this teacher has developed a reputation in town for belittling students who have difficulty with the pace he sets. Should I confront him?
Mad Dad in Manhattan Beach
Dear Mad Dad,
When my kitties or I do something wrong, Mom and Dad do not wonder whether they should tell us that what we did was wrong. First, they find out exactly who did it, and then they clean up the mess. They do not get mad if it was an accident. If it was not an accident, then they tell us “NO,” so we know not to do it again.
When I was a puppy and I chewed on things that were not mine, Mom would tell me, “NO,” and then take away the thing I was not supposed to have. She would then give me a chew toy and tell me “Yes,” when I was doing what I was supposed to do. This was much easier than her being mad all of the time, it meant that I never had to have a spanking, and it taught me exactly what would make her (and me) happier.
People are very much like pets. They will strive to get attention, whether it is bad or good. If they get good attention, they will continue to do whatever it takes to keep getting that good attention. Unfortunately, many will continue to do bad things even if they are given negative attention simply because it is attention. If they are told “NO,” and then given a better alternative, they will stop what they are doing so that they can get back to the good stuff.
If your son is upset a lot, make sure that it is not because he just needs attention — any type he can get. In other words, first, clean up the mess. Get the full story from your son and from his teacher. Then, once you know what happened (which will be somewhere between what your son says and what your teacher says because humans do not remember things the same way), deal with the situation. If your son needs attention, steer him toward GOOD attention and ignore the bad stuff so he stops it. If the teacher needs attention, tell that teacher, “NO,” so he does not do it again. If you do not tell that teacher no, he may not understand that what he is doing is wrong, and he will keep doing it as long as he gets away with it.
While you may want to remove your son from this mean teacher’s class, remember the other children and their parents who may not speak up. You are a good dad to care for your son, so do not let other dads’ sons be in harm’s way, either. Again, if no one tells this teacher, “NO,” he will keep doing bad things. Show him what he could be doing better, instead.