There’s a fine line between supporting your child and fighting his battles. Here’s how to know when to save the day…and when to save your breath.
When your children are small, you’re obliged to be a hovering mama bird. But when it’s time to leave the nest, your sweet chicks will need to test their wings, especially one they start school, and with that comes the inevitable conflicts and hurt feelings. In some cases, gentle interventions might smooth things out. But handling every difficulty your child faces could keep him from developing self-confidence.
Situation #1. You feel that your child has an unreasonable amount of homework.
Should you butt in? Not until you’ve done some serious reconnaissance work. Make sure your child is legitimately spending time working, not playing with the dog or daydreaming. If that’s not the case, make an appointment with the teacher.
How to handle it: Come prepared. Before the meeting, keep track of your child’s progress. Set goals for your child to complete an assignment, then assess at the end of that time. Write down specific challenges. The more you can show that you’ve tried to deal with the issue at home, the more receptive a teacher will be to your concerns.
When to reconsider: If your help in organizing tasks seems to speed things up and ease stress, the answer may be structure, not a teacher conference.
Situation #2. Another adult lectures your child.
Should you butt in? If the conversation is an attempt to keep your child safe, let the other adult finish.
How to handle it: Be present and reinforce what the other adult was saying so your child understands it’s not okay with you either. Stopping others from disciplining your child lets him think he can behave badly when out of your sight.
When to reconsider: If the other adult is speaking to your child more strongly than is necessary, you can politely cut him off. Introduce yourself as the parent, then say that you’ll take it from there.
Situation #3. Your child doesn’t get invited to a big birthday party.
Should you butt in? No. Making an issue about the slight will probably make things worse and draw attention to the fact that your child was left out.
How to handle it: Instead, focus on comforting your child and planning something fun as a diversion on the big day. Down the road, if this happens more than once, consider enrolling your child in a class or program outside of school. He’ll meet a new group of kids who share his interests.
When to reconsider: You may want to talk to the teacher—not the other child’s parent—to make sure there’s not a larger issue between your child and the birthday boy. Ask if there is some tension between this child and yours. If you find out that your child did do something mean, use this opportunity to show how his actions affect others—and himself!
Situation #4. Another kid is bullying your child.
Should you butt in? Not immediately, unless your child’s safety is at stake. If you’re there, watch closely and give your child a chance to solve the problem on his own. The same goes for school: It’s better to equip your child with skills to stay safe and empower her to resolve the situation on her own.
How to handle it: Rehearse ways for your child to respond appropriately.
When to reconsider: If the bullying persists and your child feels threatened, get involved. If you are the one intervening, nonchalantly pull your child out of the situation (snack time!) before discussing it. Talking to her in front of the bully could be more embarrassing. If the bullying is at school, ask a teacher to keep an eye out.
Situation #5. A teacher gave your child a C, but he thinks he deserved an A.
Should you butt in? Intervene only if your child will take part in the conversation with the teacher. If you believe your child’s points are valid, say you’ll make an appointment with the teacher but that he’ll have to make the case.
How to handle it: Have your child ask the teacher why she gave him the grade she did. Hearing the feedback from the teacher will help him fine-tune future assignments. Helping your child line up his arguments beforehand is a great way to teach him how to constructively approach a disagreement.
When to reconsider: If your child is prone to misreading or incorrectly copying down instructions, make sure you have the whole story before you jump to conclusions. A stellar report on blue whales is less so if the task was to write about smaller mammals of the sea.
Excerpts taken from Real Simple Family.