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Parenting Press: Handling School Conferences Effectively

Handling School Conferences Effectively

Tip—When we react to our children’s school problems as if they were ours, we interfere with our children’s ability to experience them as theirs.

You get a call from the middle school asking you to participate in a conference concerning your child’s school behavior and progress. It’s not a parenting moment you relish. It might, in fact, be more appropriately labeled an ibuprofen moment.

How should you handle this? Counselor Louise Tracy, MS, author of Grounded for Life?! Stop Blowing Your Fuse and Start Communicating with Your Teenager, advises parents to first get hold of their own emotions. Many of us jump from outrage to immediate judgment and yelling, she explains. We seem to want the child to feel as bad as we do.

“When our words carry high levels of anger, disappointment, and disapproval, we’re being affected by our child’s behavior and its consequences as if the bad things were happening to us,” comments Tracy. “Remember that our child’s school behavior, and the experiences that follow it, belong physically and emotionally to her.”

Tools—Tracy advises parents to remember that school problems are the child’s and it is her responsibility to resolve them with her teachers. If your youngster’s behavior is under discussion, then she should be present at the conference. Your participation in a school conference is to facilitate communication so that the child and the teacher can resolve the problem. Tracy recommends supporting the school’s authority, but also ensuring that your child gets speaking time in the conference.

  • Ask the teacher to summarize the problem so that everyone will be working from the same base.
  • Check your child’s understanding of the problem. Ask your child to restate the problem in her own words, including its consequences in grades, classroom environment, or the teacher’s feelings.
    Link to book description
  • Create speaking time for your child. Ask for your child’s ideas and feelings—whatever information she may wish to contribute from her perspective.
  • Ensure adult acknowledgment or response. If the teacher does not react, you can ask for clarification, such as, “Are you saying you speak out because you think your teacher doesn’t really understand the situation?”
  • Reflect the child’s concerns and redirect her back to the problem. For example, “Still, with thirty students and only one teacher, it’s thirty-to-one and your teacher says that’s not manageable for her. She wants your concerns handled some other way. What else do you think might work?”

At this point, the conference is really between the student and teacher as they work toward solving the problem.

You’ll find more practical tips you can use right now in Grounded for Life?! Stop Blowing Your Fuse and Start Communicating with Your Teenager by Louise Felton Tracy, M.S.

 

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