Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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Parent Dealing With Difficult Teacher

My son is a brilliantly gifted 15 year old that is a total underachiever in school. He is currently expelled for having a knife at school and is attending a special program for such students. He is of course underachieving and not doing his work at this program. The relationship with him and his current teacher has gone downhill as she is trying to micro manage him. For example, today she got upset because he was using the computer to print out a time sheet for the community service that he was going to after school. I have tried to explain to him that he needs to listen to her as she holds the key to his future, at the moment (she decides if he passes or not).

I found out today that she told my son maybe he belongs in a juvenile facility. Being a child and youth worker who has worked in such facilities, I can say with all confidence that my son does not belong in jail. He also told me that she has previously told him that he has ODD. I do not know her credentials and doubt that she was conducting any controlled test. I find it extremely disturbing that she would say these things to a student. I am considering making a complaint to the school board to let them know that we are not in support of our son being diagnosed without our consent and having this comment flippantly made to him. As I stated before, I am sure her diagnosis was based on her frustrations and not any test she conducted on him.

I know that my son can be difficult and he is very headstrong. I am also a strong advocate for him and will not tolerate any missteps made by educators. I do not want him labeled, especially without having the labels explained to him. He did not have a clue what ODD was. I guess I am his biggest advocate but I don`t want to be over advocating if there is not an issue here.

Any feedback would be appreciated...

Thank you…



Hi E.,

When your kid comes home to you complaining about his difficult teacher, many times ones' first instinct is to get in the car, drive to the school then and there and "school the teacher" on the school's lawn, in front of the principal, the students and all of the other teachers.

I know I've been in that situation before, and the father lion in me some times wants to strike! But, I also want to teach my daughters about respectful conflict resolution, and though I do believe there's a time and a place for the lion to ROAR, your kid's school is, in most cases, not one of them.

Especially when you find out that your son maybe not as blameless in the situation as you've been led to believe. In other words, get the whole story before you go ballistic! Kids have a magical way of leaving key facts regarding their involvement in any wrongdoing when telling their moms & dads their woes.

I'm not saying kids are always in the wrong and teachers are infallible, I'm just saying that most teachers are pretty good folk. Most teachers do not go into education with the goal of creating a "difficult" environment for youngsters. Although I do know teachers who have stayed past their prime, usually people in education are there because they genuinely like kids and want to help them learn. Almost everyone your kid comes in contact with in an educational setting is going to want to see him or her succeed.

I will also say that many moms & dads have no idea what strains teachers are under today with what the government expects of us, what our districts expect of us, what our administration expects of us, what the moms & dads expect of us and what the kids expect of us. (Not to mention what our own families expect of us!) What may seem like a "difficult" teacher may actually be a teacher carrying out state-mandated assessments, or implementing district NCA accreditation goals. Or, that seemingly difficult teacher may just be having a rough day (many times as a result of all of those above-listed pressures).

When your son comes home with a complaint, you are, of course, his number one advocate. I know that there are situations when it is appropriate for moms & dads to intervene on behalf of their kid. However, in most cases, teachers, even seemingly difficult ones, are willing to work as a partner with moms & dads to do what's best for your kid.

Moms & dads must also remember that teachers are just like any other human being out there. Sometimes people "rub each other the wrong way." This can happen with teachers and students too. Sometimes a kid may just not like the teacher's personality. It's not the kid's job to act in a professional manner, so in some cases, the kid not liking the teacher can spill over into his behavior, which may cause conflict in the classroom.

Conversely, if a student raises a teacher's hackles, it is that teacher's job to remain professional and hopefully that teacher will never let on that he or she doesn't appreciate that kid’s personality quirks. However, teachers do make mistakes and if he does act inappropriately, he should apologize, and as a parent, you have the right to ask for that, if the teacher does not offer to do so on his own.

Moms & dads, though, should insist on their youngster's respect for all teachers, at all times, even when that kid perceives the teacher to be "difficult."

Now what if it isn't just a rough day for the teacher? What if your kid is making consistent complaints about this teacher? I suggest, as a sign of respect, using the proper chain of command. Depending on the age of the kid, you could ask your kid to try to talk to the teacher first to see if he can solve the problem on his own. If your kid is too young or too shy and you feel it's time for you to intervene, talk directly to the teacher. Send him or her an email, call him or her or make an appointment to see him or her in person. See what you, your kid and the teacher can work out. You'd be surprised what you can accomplish with a two-sentence email, or a five-minute phone conversation.

If you do this and do not receive satisfaction after trying this, talk with the school counselor. If there is still no agreement reached, it is at this point you should probably take it to the top and call the principal. It would be unusual if you tried all of these steps and were unable to come up with some sort of solution to satisfy all parties.

I am of the opinion that most teachers, administrators, and counselors that I know will bend over backwards, do flips, cartwheels, and stand on their heads, do the conga, or cha-cha with a pit bull to ensure that a kid succeeds. And, a parent can take a kid far, but ultimately, especially at the high school level, the kid has to go the full distance on his/her own.

I know that one of the means to my own youngster's success is teaching them how to problem solve, deal with people that they may or may not like, and to be respectful of all people. It may be your first instinct to take care of your kid's problem for him or her, but allowing them the chance to work through it on their own can oftentimes be more the more valuable experience.

We all encounter difficult people in our everyday lives. School, many times, ends up being a microcosm for the "real world." Students can actually benefit from working through their problems with their difficult teachers because chances are that teacher won't be the last difficult person he or she encounters. And, when your kid sees you modeling respect for the teacher, even though you may not agree with everything the teacher says or does, your kid can learn a valuable lesson on working through conflict.

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