Let’s Blame the Family

In category Schools & Education

When children are having problems at school, and school personnel can’t blame the problem on the child, then next in line is the family with their “family problems”, or irresponsible or feckless parents. Often this is spoken about in the security of the staffrooms and behind the parents’ backs, sometimes it is hinted at when telling these errant parents about their child’s latest issue, but when you really push them, they will come out in the open.

Over the years I’ve heard just about all of them and sometimes been amused to watch the horror on onlooker’s faces as they witness some amazingly unprofessional rudeness. How familiar are these…

  • They are fine at school so any unhappiness must be something that is happening at home. Never heard of going home and kicking the cat? Most of us manage to keep the lid on things when we are in public and let it out when we reach the comfort and safety of home.
  • More than one child in the family is having school issues so it is obviously a family problem. Well, the children are also all attending the same school so by the same logic it could just as obviously be a school problem.
  • In “families with problems” sometimes the child is afraid to leave their mother at home in case something happens to her. But if that same child is given the opportunity to leave mother at home and go anywhere but school, they’d be off like a shot. It’s just school they don’t want to go to.
  • You are too permissive – you need to be firm with them and not let them have their own way all the time. This one totally misses the point, and ignores just how much stress a child will endure before they start showing signs of distress and school refusal, that there is no polite response.
  • You can’t believe everything a child says – they are just manipulating you. So you’re calling my child a liar and me a fool? You get 0 out of 10 for that clumsy attempt at manipulation.

And then there is my favourite – the professional who told me quite loudly in front of stunned onlookers that the only problem this child had was its mother (ie me). I was quite pleased because it meant that he had moved from his inexpert and inaccurate diagnosis of the child’s reactions to him to there being nothing wrong with the child at all – I was the problem. My response was that if he ever spoke to any of my children again, I would make an official complaint. This confrontation was a win all round. It kept him from interfering in a situation he didn’t understand and causing unnecessary problems, and also confirmed an excellent strategy for dealing with schools – work with those you can, and avoid the rest.

Obstreperous mothers are much easier to shed when they are no longer needed. A label can undermine forever.

Most school personnel appear to need a reason to accept a child’s different needs. Having an obstreperous mother to blame is a much less damaging strategy than acquiring a label from a psychologist simply to make people treat the child as an individual. Obstreperous mothers are much easier to shed when they are no longer needed. A label can undermine forever.

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