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Mom to the Rescue!
Mom with a View

Mom to the Rescue!

The cavalry does not belong in the classroom.


Americans were raised on Westerns -- with the cavalry coming to the rescue. We have a can-do spirit and believe we can rush in and fix every situation. This is not always a successful strategy, neither nationally or personally.

It can be particularly unsuccessful as a parenting technique. Yet it is very difficult to avoid. Especially in the ongoing intertwined and complicated relationship of parents and schools.

Sometimes children have poor teachers -- teachers who can't teach, teachers who lose their temper, teachers whose personal problems overwhelm their classroom demeanor... Everyday a new story is related after school -- of detentions given, of frustrated students, of lapses of professional conduct.

This is a very complicated scenario. Depending upon the degree of incompetence of the teacher or the egregiousness of the behavior, the parent may need to agitate for change. However, this should be done behind the scenes. Our children should not be involved and better yet, should know nothing of it.

They need two things from us: 1. Empathy: They need to know that we understand how tough it can be in the classroom, how frustrating some days are. And 2. Coping Strategies: This teacher is providing our child with a crucial learning experience (albeit not the one intended). In sharing strategies for dealing with the situation, we are giving tools for coping with many of the difficulties life has to offer us.

There is a very popular book entitled "Eat, Pray, Love". After a messy divorce, the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, was able to pick up the pieces of her life as she ate her way through Italy, prayed her way through India, and, you guessed it, found love in Bali. While we certainly wish Ms. Gilbert well, her book is not instructive. Most people don't have the option of just walking away from painful situations. Nor is it always the right thing to do.

Facing up to discomfort, finding ways to deal with frustrating teachers, will prepare our children for the future much better that our instinctive "mother lion" responses which tend to be overly dramatic -- like getting the teacher fired or pulling our child out of that school! And ultimately unproductive.

The cavalry does not belong in the classroom. This includes the college classroom where some parents today have been known to plead with the professors for better grades for their children. I can think of few actions that would humiliate our children so completely and effectively.

The cavalry also doesn't belong on the playground. Kids fight. It's part of the DNA. Siblings pick on each other constantly. Boys in schoolyards can get physical. Girls can get catty. (Yes, Virginia, some stereotypes are true). When your child comes home in tears because "Everyone picked on me" or "No one likes me," the temptation is to march over to the home of the lead bully (some quavering eleven-year-old) and give her a piece of your mind.

We need to hold back. We need to stay out of it. Most likely they will resolve it on their own. Our interference only makes it worse, stirring up greater animosity on both sides. It's hard to see our children in pain but not only do we not know what (possibly provocative) role they may have played in the situation, we impede their ability to deal with interpersonal conflict by coming to the rescue. We leave them less prepared for life, not more.

The instinct is to rescue. It's an animal instinct responding to the cue to attack. But we are higher beings and we need to stop ourselves. The cavalry belongs on the big screen. In real life, our children will grow more and in a better fashion by learning to cope on their own -- and knowing that we are there in the background for support and advice.

January 12, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 23

(23) Joey, January 17, 2008 4:27 PM


I thought the advice here---particularly about teachers---was excellent. It gave clever ways to deal with the situation if necessary, while not undermining the child's respect for authority. Thank you and God bless.

(22) Anonymous, January 17, 2008 12:30 PM

I agree with EB, up to a point. Yes, we should allow our children to learn to resolve things, but there are certain limits to that.

For example, siblings can resolve certain issues, but parents must intervene when it reaches the point of "I hate you" or getting physical. A lot of longtime sibling rivalry and extrangement could be avoided if parents do intervene before things get personal and/or physical.

For another, I was picked on a lot throughout my school years. My parents' idea of helping was to tell me that I had to be more outgoing and confident, without showing me how to feel better about myself.

I think parents do need to stand by and not interfere if the situation is something that the children can resolve by themselves, but bullying and physical fighting cannot be resolved, and that's when parents have to forget about "let the kids resolve it themselves" and send in the cavalry, guns blazing.

I expect my children's teachers to protect them, and if anyone hurts them physically, I expect the teachers to punish the bullies, just as I would expect the teachers to punish my children if they hurt other kids. So far, my daughter's teachers have been very good about that, and I feel better knowing that.

My best advice to all parents is this: get to know your children by listening without any judgment, learn what makes them feel good about themselves, and use that to help them be more confident. Kids who feel good about themselves will not need to put anyone else down, nor will they be as vulnerable to those who would put them down.

(21) Susan, January 16, 2008 10:39 PM

Keep out of it?

I agree with letting the kids handle it by them selves to a point. When it gets too hard and the bullying gets too deep and they don't know how to handle it and are afraid to go to school, it is time for some parent involvement. It is us who they look up to, not to save them from every fall, but to know that we have their back and will stand behind them as much as they need us to and guide them on how to take care of them selves.

(20) Anonymous, January 16, 2008 8:47 PM

Menschlikeit and derech eretz

Sorry: I'm a mother who was just forced to step up to the plate to defend my child. "Let it work itself out" and coaching coping strategies only go so far. Screaming teachers are not--ever--acceptable (especially religious teachers, even if they're Israeli), and child bullies are not acceptable either. Children don't derive any benefit from being bullied relentlessly on the playground or in the classroom. Social Darwinism is not a Jewish value. More importantly, we need to address bullying from the Jewish perspective: menschlikeit and derech eretz. The real concern is not for the bullied, but for the bully-ers; morality and gentility have to be taught--that's why it's called 'raising' a child. As bad as it is to be a victim, it's worse to be a person who enjoys hurting other people; God selected parents and teachers to impart that lesson. Sometimes it's appropriate to intervene in a toxic situation.

Wrong. If we allow our children to be bullied by teachers or other children, we teach

(19) Anonymous, January 16, 2008 2:59 PM


As a parent who has had interference from teachers (one high school teacher slept with my son and another passed herself off as my daughter's mother) and naievely worked hand in hand with the school over a handicapped child, I have seen even a supposed strong principal lie and allow illegal activity from outside 'authorities'. My best advice is always stay on your toes, actively listen to your child, always suspect the worst, and carry a very big stick. the schools have thier own agenda and it doesnt include parents. I didnt find out what one teacher was doing until I had to hospitialize my other son for suicidal depression and it just happened another child was hospitalized at the same time. schools have become propaganda centers and are more concerned about indoctrination than anything else. so DONT wait.... be the parent THEY fear seeing come through the front door. but be rational and right. dont sweat the grades, college is worse.

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