When Parenting Styles and Classroom Practice Clash
FROM A PARENT
My chosen style of parenting and positive behaviour management has come back to bite me in the butt. My daughter has moved up a year and within 2 weeks is experiencing difficulties with her new teacher. This teacher has a chosen disciplinary approach that is in conflict with mine and how I have raised my daughter. There is one point that demonstrates this conflict of approaches. My daughter comes home yesterday and explains that she was doing something wrong and her punishment was to miss assembly and stay in class to ‘think about what she had done’. The other child that had also been found ‘climbing on the toilets’, which was their misdemeanour, was permitted to attend assembly.
She was sat on the carpet, alone, sad and confused, for the whole of assembly. ‘We didn’t talk or anything’ She explained and ‘after assembly she asked me to get my coat to go out’. She wouldn’t have understood the difference between her actions and the other girls’. She wouldn’t have understood the reason for different consequences. She wouldn’t have been able to work it all out and this time alone just confused her. She still has questions and hasn’t had the chance to order her thinking since the punishment.
Why wouldn’t she have understood? Why the confusion?
1) She is 5 and we believe children need guidance and coaching to understand her feelings and behaviours 2) She has been given this at both her homes and is not left alone to ‘think about what she’s done’ – rather she is coached to understand what was unhelpful or against the rules and how to change her behaviour
Why the behaviour?
1) She is going through many changes. The birth of her Fathers child is imminent. The teachers for her class share the week and do 3 and 2 days each. The teaching style is different and she is finding it difficult to adjust. The discipline is different and she is finding it hard to understand. She is tired from 2 weeks back to early mornings and long days. 2) An ongoing family situation has caused concern again and this has confused her 3) The teachers personality is vastly different from that she is used to in a role of authority
What we are experiencing here is a clash between household and school approaches. I used to parent very differently but it felt wrong, it disconnected my daughter and I and left us both shattered and unsure. It was highly ineffective. I read many many books and studied more child psychology. There were parents out there who were experiencing the same frustrations with accepted parenting styles and were feeling discontent. I found an approach that fit with my beliefs about children and I stuck with it. My child responded excellently and clearly felt assured and understood. Meltdowns stopped, apologies came quickly and understanding was key. Boundaries were no longer pushed and my child and I were very content. Of course it wasn’t this simple. It took time but the positive changes were apparent almost immediately and this spurred me on.
The difficulties happen later, and the books don’t explain how to address these problems. Though more and more expert findings and research into behaviour supports this approach this is not yet the ‘norm’ – far from it. Many schools still adhere to the accepted, and outdated, views of child behaviour, as do many parents. The problems occur when a child, happily raised in this understanding environment, is cast into an environment that seems to have polar opposites. The child then enters a state of disequilibrium and questions the rules and the reasons of both the new environment and her home. If the parents, even if still together, don’t agree on a parenting style the conflict creates disequilibrium. The child needs to find equilibrium again to say ‘ah – now this is the way it is and this is why. That makes sense’.
Not all children are the same, by any means. Many children may not exhibit these difficulties in assimilating different rules. My child asks for reasons and ‘because I said so’ doesn’t wash with her. I do recall being the same and experiencing the same confusions, asking the same questions. Often the answers didn’t satisfy me and disequilibrium seemed to be an almost constant state.
Parents and schools must work together to create equilibrium for the child. The parents must show a united front but should discuss any conflict of views outside of the child’s awareness so that they can come to a mutually agreeable approach that the child can follow. The schools must recognise confusion and disequilibrium and discuss this with parents so that they can work together to help the child toward equilibrium and understanding of the rules and approaches.
In the case of my child simply saying ‘that’s the way they do it there does not satisfy her questioning mind’ – and why should it?
It would certainly do my child no good at all to go back on what has been such a positive experience for us both and change my parenting style.
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