I think the title of this post should be "How teachers/administrators/specialists can do a better job of communicating with parents of a child with difficult behaviors." I am having a huge communication break down with one of my son's school which is actually led me down a path I really don't want to go. I am really really going try this week to be a better communicator with them and see if we can work together for my student.
Things that get my panties in a wad
The Number 1 thing that makes me not want to communicate with school is if I go to a meeting to talk about my child and I am ambushed. People are invited that I didn't know were going to be there. I cannot count the number of times I have gone to a meeting to JUST talk to the teacher and an administrator, counselor, resource room teacher,principal have also shown up. I don't mind going to meetings if I know they are going to be there. It really creates a parent versus the school mentality.
Don't tell me a misdeed days after it happened. This really torks me off. I can't perform damage control if I don't have the information. My kid certainly is not going tell me he messed up. He is a kid. I REALLY DISLIKE getting a principal referral slip in the mail on a Saturday when I can't speak to anyone about it. Especially when I am there every day after school even on the day that the student was sent to the Principal's office.Don't hide the misdeed from me. I will find out usually from the most busy body parent.
Failure to document the misdeed. I always find this funny as school are notorious for generating lots and lots of paperwork. I need to know how it all went down. I actually need to know who is at fault. Especially if your student has perception problems about the event in question.
I really hate suggestions where you don't have to do anything. Right up there is having conference after conference just to cover your butt. Talk is cheap.
I don't need the teacher, the aide, the administrator, janitor, school secretary, other parents all telling me that my student messed up. I usually get the first message. I am really good like that. On the same spectrum, my child doesn't need his misdeed broadcast all over the school. My student is already an outcast and doesn't need really need to add public embarrassment to that as well.
Please don't have a behavior notebook that only documents negative behaviors. I am pretty sure parents with kids that have difficult behaviors think they have failed. This is a feeling that I deal with on a regular basis. I know that isn't true but hearing constant negative things about your child really can wear on you. Especially if the feedback every single day is something negative. I have a 3rd grade notebook that pretty much documents my son's year in hell (well, that is how it looks in that notebook anyway.) There is really no support system for a parent who has a child who is constantly misbehaving.
I hate the question, " Do you have any ideas on how we can stop (insert behavior)?" No, I don't have the magic answer. I don't think there is a parent in the world who wants their kid to misbehave at school. I think bad behavior is rarely so black and white as to say if you do this, this won't happen. Help is rarely on the way. Behaviors rarely change overnight even with good intervention. Changing negative behaviors takes time. Though I always imagine a Knight on a white horse showing up with the answer. Believe me if I could find a way to prevent every bad and negative behavior I would be a millionaire.
Things that really work in communicating with parents (In my humble parenting opinion)
A drag sheet or point sheet that has to be signed daily with negative and positive comments. Yes, even in the worst situation we can find a positive comment to make about a child. Sometimes it is the little victories that add up. Kids with difficult behaviors also usually have pretty low self esteem. Below is one of my children's point sheet. I really like this format because I can also comment back and I know when the event happened if the Teacher didn't comment. The headings at the top are Staying on task, Following Directions, Interacting appropriately with others, personal goal, homework, bonus points, comments and initials. I don't have an example to show but I have received sheets that have had bonus points and negative points in the same day.
Documentation would be nice of when, where, and how the bad behavior happened (the experts I have to share information with need this - Is medication wearing off at a certain time? Is PE causing anxiety? etc) A lot of time behaviors are about patterns and triggers and if we study the patterns we can alter the behavior. I have had to talk to lots of experts and I really really don't think Teacher's understand how important it is to share the patterns if any of them exist. I can't tell you HOW many times I have been asked does always happen during this part of the day or during reading . OR do you know what happened before that? I don't spend the majority of day with my student so I really can't share this information. I know this puts a unfair burden on Teachers but documentation is really worth it.
It really important to give parents a safe place to share information/comment either in email,note or on drag sheets/point sheets. Sometimes parents need to share information without being judged on their parenting skills. As you can see on the point sheet above, I commented back to the Teacher. With this teacher, I either comment on the point sheet or email when questions or situations arise.
Parents need to be clear on the communication expectations(are we doing daily reports/weekly reports) and getting all the information. The nature of bad behaviors seem to indicate that kids aren't the best reporters on their behavior.
My kid is high maintenance. I will be less high maintenance if I have information.
It is really hard as a parent to hear bad things about your child. Sometimes it is just too much information and things get lost in translation. Really speak directly and specifically about what you need that parent to do and what steps the child needs to take to rectify the situation. It is just like my Mama use to say, "It isn't what you say but how you say it."
Things Parents can do to improve communication
Be respectful - It is too easy to fly off the handle when you already in the pressure cooker with this kid. Realize that bad behavior is just bad behavior not a bad kid. Don't make yourself the reason the lines of communication shut down. It is not the teacher's fault your child is behaving badly. In other words, "Don't kill the messenger."
Check in often with the teacher. You don't need to be a pest but know what is happening in that classroom. Never ASSUME that all is well. Boy, don't I know that one.
You are your child's best advocate. You know them the best. However, that doesn't give you permission not to hear negative things.
Make sure you share the positive things that are happening for your child.
It is not the Teacher's job to provide therapy for you or your child. Teacher's have a really hard job and don't get paid nearly enough for that. Seeking professional help for your child is not a sign of weakness it is being a good advocate for your kid.
**I read somewhere that school is the worst place for ADHD/ADD child to be. I have to agree.
My other ADHD posts are here and here