Q: My child came home from school yesterday and told me that she got in trouble for pinching a boy who has been teasing her each day during recess. In a fit of rage, I sent an email lambasting the teacher’s handling of the situation. It wasn’t until later that I found out what really happened. Long story short, my daughter is actually the one causing problems. I can’t undo the horrible email that I sent to the teacher, but I want to let the teacher know that I now understand the situation. How do I do this without looking like an idiot?
A: First, take a deep breath and give yourself a break. Kids are great at telling their side of the story, and parents are primed to believe them. You are neither the first nor will you be the last parent to fire off an email without knowing the full extent of the situation.
You’re not excused, though, either. Your best recourse is to visit the teacher before or after school to discuss the situation—he or she might be reluctant to return a phone call if your email was as heated as you suggest. Offer a sincere apology for jumping to conclusions, ask for a full description of what happened, and listen to what the teacher says. Admit you overreacted, and ask what you can do to help the teacher solve the problem. Work with the teacher to come up with a plan, and be sure to follow through.
It’s also important that you talk to your daughter. Let her know that you discussed the situation with her teacher and that you’ll be working with her teacher to solve the problem. Remind your daughter that her teacher is an authority figure she needs to listen to and respect. Parents who are mad at teachers may inadvertently undermine the teachers’ authority, all but guaranteeing that problems will recur. If children have tacit permission to misbehave without any danger of home consequences, they can impede learning for other students in the classroom.
Insist your child write a letter of apology to the teacher for her part in the incident. Once your daughter understands that you support the teacher and will communicate regularly to make sure there are no more issues, she will be more likely to toe the line to avoid getting in trouble again.
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