Although schools have been deemed responsible for intervening in bullying, the problem has grown from a problem between kids into a problem between parents and teachers. Parents now hold teachers responsible for stopping bullying, and when the teachers can’t, parents blame them. Teachers in turn blame parents for raising problem kids. Never before has so much tension existed between parents and children as today, thanks to school anti-bullying laws.
Parents have been inculcated with the unrealistic expectations that teachers can protect their children from all negative social behavior, even though many parents can’t get their own children to peacefully coexist at home.
In order to reduce bullying, parents and teachers first need to stop blaming each other. Blame promotes hostility. Partnering with parents is more productive. When parents accuse you of failing to stop bullying, tell them sincerely that you have been trying. Let them know you were given a lesson explaining why “anti-bullying” policies don’t work well, and that you don’t even know how to get your kids at home to stop picking on each other. The parent will recognize they’re in the same boat. Then say you’ve been learning a different approach.
To partner with parents and enlist their support, present them with your common goals for their children.
- To develop resilience to adversity.
- To not get overly upset by words and actions that don’t cause objective damage.
- To learn to take personal responsibility for their feelings and problems and avoid blaming others.
- To accept themselves the way they are, with all their so-called “faults” or “imperfections.”
- To develop self-confidence and esteem.
- To learn to handle problems independently.
No rational parent will disagree with these goals. It should become obvious that you can’t achieve these goals by trying to protect children from each other and solving their interpersonal problems for them. Then you can explore how you can achieve them.
For example, if parents demand that you intervene whenever their child is spoken to poorly, you can explain how that response is counterproductive to the goals and causes hostilities to intensify. Instead, you choose to achieve the goals by teaching their child/children the skills for handling social aggression on their own. The parents will be grateful to you because you will actually be responding to their children according to theirgoals.
It may be possible that the parent is nevertheless upset with you because they insist that it’s your responsibility solve their child’s problem. No matter how angry the parent may be, stay calm and treat them like a friend. Let them know you understand why they are upset and you wish that fighting their child’s battle for them would work, but it won’t. Assure the parent that you want desperately to help their child thrive socially, emotionally and academically, and that you want to teach their child do it on their own. If you remain respectful towards the parents, they will calm down and pay attention.
Present the parents with the goals, and when they accept them, let them know you use a system for achieving them, and if they have any suggestions you would love to hear them.
If you find that what you’re doing is working with the students, you can suggest to the parents that they may want to try the same approach with their children at home. After all, the problem of hostility among kids is far more common at home than in school. If both parents and teachers take the same approach in school and at home, developing their children’s resilience and social skills will be much easier.