Opinion

How to deal with complaints about our children?

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I was going through the posts on Facebook and one post caught my attention. A young mother had shared her concern about her son who is in the nursery.

He was studying in a good school. But, she had to change the school when the teacher kept complaining about the child being difficult to handle.

However, in the new school which again was also good and the fee was high, the teacher had similar complaints. The hapless mother was highly dissatisfied with the schools and teachers who could not handle a small child.

And the very fact that the fee was very high in both the schools seemed to have increased her woes and dissatisfaction.

There were many responses to the post. Some were advisory, some reactive and judgmental. Some were empathetic and showing solidarity with the mother while some others were laced with humour. Besides, some were very sensible and based on deep understanding of children’s behaviour.

I read them all. I was in double mind whether I should respond, but somehow responded to it and tried to give a balanced take which the professional ethics of a counsellor demand from me.

I will not repeat what I wrote as a response, but would slightly digress from the subject and like to talk about an important aspect of parenting: “How to deal with the complaints about children?”

Being defensive will not help

It is a sheer joy if children are well mannered and get good grades in school. For such children, the parents are happy and proud. A smooth sail it is and parents feel vindicated for doing a great job of parenting.

But what about the children who prove to be difficult to handle in school? How do parents respond when teachers complain about their bad behaviour, destructive activities and misdemeanours?

It is very natural to feel bad. Many parents immediately become defensive and start finding faults with the teachers and the school.

Even my first reaction was no different when I got complaints from the teachers about my younger daughter. I have no qualms admitting it.

My husband is a step ahead. His reaction was to overlook our child’s fault, and blame it on everything else. But, I had to be reflective and understand the situation to help my child. I am sharing the method we followed and which helped us.

When our emotions settle a bit and I try to look at it as an observer, I have to try really hard to make my husband see things clearly. I have to tell him that accepting the reality doesn’t make us love our child any less.

The things which we may be finding adorable may not be looked at the same way by others. And somehow he reluctantly agrees and we make a common strategy to talk it out to our daughter.

When we both speak the same language, the impact is more. It has actually helped and now we can say that not responding reactively has helped us to deal with the situation better.

It is important to look at the whole thing in a dispassionate way to choose the correct response and check if there is any truth in the complaints. Ultimately, it is about the better future of our own child.

Some parents who are doing well professionally and are in higher positions have a strange tendency to look at teachers with lower esteem.

I have even seen my own friends giving derogatory remarks and casual comments about the teachers in front of the children. In such situations, the children get influenced, and develop a casual attitude towards the teachers.

The frustration of parents about underperforming and inefficient teachers may not be baseless. But, does their reaction help the situation? Can they change the teacher or school every time they feel this way?

If they want their child to continue in the same school, they have to avoid responses which may create a gulf between the children and their teachers.

There are few parents who become very aggressive when they experience such situations where the teachers complain about their children’s behaviour.

They start disciplining the children in a very harsh way without understanding the real issues. Such parents are on the other extreme.

Both kinds are unhealthy responses. Defending the children when they are at fault is as detrimental as the harsh punishments are given to them on hearing complaints.

How to choose better responses

First and foremost, we need to take things easy and listen to the complaints. We have to observe our child at home more carefully.

If there is truth to what the teachers are saying, we have to devise ways to mend that behaviour by talking to the child in a very loving way, giving examples and most importantly showing them our own behaviour and demeanour.

Reprimanding a growing child is not bad. It should, however, serve the purpose of bringing improvement. If it is not giving the result, it means the punishment is ineffective and the child has not got the message right.

Rewarding the child for doing well is equally important. It boosts the confidence and acts as a motivation for good behaviour.

If there is truth in what the teachers are saying, it is wise to accept it gracefully and seek their support to help the child improve.

It would be better if you can request them to tell you in specific terms as to what exactly the child did, how many times he repeated the undesirable behaviour when he showed such behaviour and how did they deal with the problem behaviour?

Going into an argumentative mode or defensive mode can worsen the problem. It may even antagonise the teacher, who is as human as we are with his or her own limitations.

Hence, it is important to listen to him or her carefully and ask how you will be able to help. Do they have any recommendations from the counsellor?

Be patient and stay relaxed. Sometimes, we tend to misread or read more to what the teachers say. No one likes to listen to complaints.

But, if the child is notorious and teachers experience certain problem behaviour, they certainly will intimate the parents. How they do it is up to the system followed in the school, and attitude of individual teachers.

But choosing the right responses is in the hand of parents and it is the key to tackling the situation in a way that everyone benefits from it – the complaining teacher, the child with problem behaviour, and the parents themselves.

It is important for parents to understand the children’s mind by talking to the children and playing with them games where they reveal their thoughts.

If the child is taught to speak the truth, half your battle is won. It is ultimately the duty of parents to inculcate right behaviour in children. Happy parenting!

(Saswati Kar is a soft-skill and life-skill trainer and social activist)

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