There's a fine line between advocating for your child and getting a reputation as a difficult parent. Stacy DeBroff of momcentral.com was invited on the “Today” show to share her tips on the right and wrong ways to handle conflict for our special monthlong series, “Raising Kids Today.” Here’s a list of dos and don'ts to resolving issues with your child's teachers.Don't grab a teacher on the fly about an incident that happened the day beforeTeachers feel defensive and unprepared, and want time to reflect and private time to talk when 20 energized kids aren't coming through the door. It's like rushing your kids out the door late to school in the morning, and your mailman wanting to have a leisurely chat with you. Do schedule a quiet time to talk, and frame the issue in advance for the teacher, so there is time for reflection and a detailed, thoughtful discussion.
Use e-mail to lay out your concerns: Take advantage of technology to quickly give teachers a heads up about what is going on, and they can respond when convenient.
Don't micromanage the details for your child or be overly involvedTeachers work hard to get kids to take responsibility and become increasingly self-sufficient. By middle school, teachers don't want parents in the hallway and tend to worry if parents volunteering in the classroom are actually there to spy on their child. You do not have to be "command central" and mastermind the details to ensure your child thrives. Collaborate, don't agitate.
Instead, be involved, but let your child learn to take responsibility. Make him responsible for remembering his homework assignments, attending his extracurricular commitments and organizing his own locker. Resist the temptation to perfect his school projects so they look like a master artist was involved. This independence gets reflected in kids' academic work as well, and you ultimately want your child self-directed and self-organized as he enters the high-school years. You want to strike a balance between being a facilitator to ensure your child thrives and an overbearing meddler.
Don't go straight to the principal
While it is tempting to rush into the principal's office, it means totally severing your relationship with the teacher; there's no going back. Do turn to this as your last resort, when trying to work things out directly with the teacher has failed.
Don't believe everything your child tells youDo get specific details and get to the bottom of the story before storming in to see the teacher.
Don't disparage the teacher in front of your child; your child will mimic your attitude
Parents often do this without thinking, while talking on the phone, saying "You won't believe what Ms. Jones did today." Do create a united front with the teacher so that your child will not play one of you off the other. You can work out your differences in private.
Don't get into homework battles with your child before talking to the teacher about what she expects from your childSome parents rush in and say, “I took math in college and I barely understand this homework. It's way too hard!” Most teachers want to know when your child is struggling, though as anxious parents wanting our kids to succeed in school, the temptation is to stay up late correcting every last mistake. Do serve as a homework adviser but not an active participant.