Dear Emuna,

We recently moved and my daughter started at a new school. She is 7 years old and the day is long (8 to 4). I try to send her a healthy lunch but I like to add a little treat to give her a boost and “sweeten” her day (forgive the pun). I don’t give her candy or chocolate but perhaps a few cookies or a muffin or some leftover cake/brownies from Shabbos. I recently received a note from the school that we are only allowed to send healthy snacks – because some kids might get jealous. I was outraged. I think it should be my choice not theirs. What should I do?

Frustrated parent

Dear Frustrated,

I am totally with you on this. I think the whole idea is absurd. We can’t spare our children situations where someone else may have either more than them or something they desire. There will be children with nicer clothes (even if there are uniforms, there are still shoes!). There will be children with nicer cars and nicer homes. There will even be children with seemingly nicer parents!

Our job is to give our children the tools they need to deal with situations of jealousy, not to try to protect them from it.

What if a child does better on a test? There are children who are smarter. What if a child is a good musician or athlete? There are children who are more talented. Our children can spend their lives miserable and jealous, God forbid, or they can learn to appreciate who they are and what they have – to be (as it says in Ethics of Our Fathers) – happy with their lot. Wouldn’t that be better for them than trying to create an artificial bubble for them to reside in, one which will at some point be burst?

That said, it is very difficult to fight city hall and schools are usually pretty intractable. Since you have entrusted your daughter to them (I assume you did research and that it is a school you like in general) for so much of her day, you want to try to get along with the staff and administration. Save your frustration for the situations that really matter (bullying, a destructive teacher, learning issues etc) and have some nice warm cookies and a glass of milk waiting for your daughter when she walks in the door.

Accept the situation and, most importantly, don’t let your daughter see your frustration with her school or give her any cause to lose respect for the staff there.

Unreceptive Teacher

Dear Emuna,

I have a daughter who is charming, kind and generous but not very academic. At the beginning of every school year, I try to sit down with her teacher and explain that. Her report cards always say that she needs to try harder and I want to let the teacher know that even that is a challenge for her. When I tried to enlighten her teacher about my daughter this year, the teacher was completely unreceptive. In fact her response was, “Too bad for her.” I left the room shaking and I don’t know what to do. Any advice?

Frustrated parent

Dear Another Frustrated parent,

Well I can certainly tell that the school year has begun! I normally think it’s better not to go behind the teacher’s back but this case is a little trickier. Perhaps suggest a meeting with the teacher and the principal and you or, if there is one, the school psychologist, teacher and you. In addition to the idea that there are different kinds of minds/learning styles, we now also recognize that motivation and drive are not distributed evenly either (well most of us know; clearly that teacher doesn’t!)

Communicating this crucial idea to your daughter’s teacher will not only benefit your daughter but all her other students, current and future. The secret, of course, as with any interaction, is to approach your daughter’s teacher with respect and appreciation, not with frustration (no matter how much you feel it!) and criticism. “I know how hard your job is.” “I know how difficult it is to give students individual attention.” “I realize that your resources are very limited.” “I admire your commitment.” And my favorite (and true), “I could never do what you do!”

Everyone needs appreciation and teachers frequently get none. In fact they are frequently the target (and often incorrectly) of the parent’s frustration with their children’s academic and/or behavioral issues. So try to take the blame out of the equation and speak from a place of respect and understanding. Try to make a partnership with the teacher.

You know your daughter well; you love her yet you may also find some of her behaviors challenging. Make common cause with the teacher. You have a shared goal. If the teacher sincerely wants to do a good job (and I believe most do) and you approach her in a kind and respectful manner, I have every hope for your success.

Of course, ask the Almighty to give you the right words, the patience and the appreciation. If, after all of those efforts, you are met with no success, then you may have to battle the administration for a change of teacher or to take a harder line with the current one. I hope it won’t come to that but, unlike the previous letter writer, this is a situation where you need to really go to bat for your child, where the stakes are much higher than a few Oreos!