Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Danger In Bulldoze-Parenting - a Teacher's Perspective


I grew up in a community where if you didn’t get along with someone, the advice we heard from our elders was, "Learn how to." If we had trouble working with someone, the teacher purposely assigned us to a group so that we would have to work together. My parents insisted that I learn to work my problems out. They didn’t call other parents to complain about our problems and how they could fix them. I was disciplined by my parents whenever I lacked self-discipline -- when I was disrespectful to others, when I didn't do my share of the chores, or when I got poor grades. Did I like it at the time? Nope; but now as an adult, I'm grateful for it. And now, as and educator, I increasingly see the opposite approach growing into a dangerous parenting trend.

Every parent wants to see their children happy, safe, and successful. Teachers want the same for their students. However, the growing hurdle is the mindset that if a child gets upset, the parent(s) should step in and fix it. If a child receives a bad grade, the parent talks to (or occasionally blames) the teacher. If a child doesn’t get along with a peer, the parents take it into their own hands. Many call this “bulldoze parenting” because these parents want to clear a wide smooth path for their children -- a worry-free utopia where young people can avoid these "distractions" and mature into successful adults. Being a loving and caring parent is great and much healthier for kids than apathetic parenting. But, what does bulldozing teach the child? What I see it teaching many children is that they can always get what they want through a little complaining. I see it teaching the child that if they make mistakes or slack on their responsibilities, they won't have to deal with the consequences. Bulldozing doesn’t teach the child how to be independent, responsible, or respectful.

I always have to laugh a bit when I have two students who do not get along and their parents request that I make additional efforts to keep the children separated as much as possible. I always want to remind those parents that in their own professional world if they don’t get along with a co-worker, the boss' solution is probably not to separate them at the workplace but to find a way to work together. I imagine one reason divorce rates are higher than ever is because when times get tough, the socially acceptable thing to do now is to "take some time apart." Separation from your problems doesn’t solve them. Bulldozing the problems out of the way for students may help them feel better in the moment, but long-term it teaches them the wrong principles. I’m not suggesting putting those two students in a room and letting them figure it out by themselves, but subtle and guided interactions together are what lead those students to get along. Maybe they won’t become best friends, but they will at least learn to respect one another and that is the ultimate goal. That type of attitude can start in the classroom and then snowball into other areas of their life and future.

A teacher’s job is to not only get students next-grade-ready, but also life-ready. I ask that all my students to do their personal best in their studies, and to also learn the necessary skills to be responsible citizens. Having manners, respect, and being team players are just as important to me as knowing how to read and write. Yet, when parents try to draw up the classroom seating arrangements and who should be in which study groups, it creates a roadblock for what the teachers are doing and removes an important learning aspect for the students. I understand that when parents suggest those ideas to the teachers, they are trying to help. They want the best for their children; they just don’t realize that their over-involvement is hindering their students in the process.

There are ways for teachers and parents to work together to help our students grow both in and out of the classroom. One way is effective communication, and I don't mean just sending out the weekly newsletter. I mean real communication -- for the teacher to be honest about the behavior the student shows while at school. Parents also need to explain their child’s at-home and extra-curricular behavior to the teacher. The two behaviors can be examined and then a thoughtful plan on helping the student can be determined. As teachers, we have to remember that parents know their children the best. Teachers would be making a HUGE mistake if we didn’t take what the parents said seriously and whole-heartedly. Parents also have to understand that teachers have a classroom of 20+ other students (plus their parents). Teachers not only have to think of the best interest of the individual child, but the classroom as a whole.

Another way is being aware of our boundaries. Teachers go through a very rigorous program to become an educator. We spend hundreds of hours in the classroom before we get our own classroom. We attend ongoing seminars, training, and continually read and study to further our own education. When it comes to the classroom setting, we are professionals at knowing what is best for our group of students. Parents and teachers should both be cautious not to over-step our boundaries. By working together, when students enter the classroom, teachers can pick up where the parents left off and vice versa. That type of support system always fosters the best results for the students.

Parents, staff, and administrators all share the same goals -- we want the best educational experiences for each of our students. We want them to become smart, active, and responsible citizens in our communities. When we know our roles, trust and support each other, and create an environment where our students can learn by experiencing challenges and mistakes, I'm confident we will see them excel in both their studies and in their character.



Megan Baker
3rd & 4th Grade Teacher
McPherson County Schools, Nebraska


6 comments:

  1. Excellent points! I'm not a teacher, but I've talked to enough parents about schools and educations over my summers selling books to know that the character development teachers have the opportunity to help students with is just as important as--if not more important than--the academic skills students learn.

    Hearing these points from an experienced teacher just brings it home even more. Parents need to help the teachers and schools to help their kids.

    Thanks, Megan!

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