1. Education

Problems at School?

What to Do When Your Child Has Problems at School


Teacher, parent, child

Teacher, parent, child

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Are you disappointed with your child's school? Is your child having problems at school? Is the work too difficult? Is the teacher at fault? Judging by the emails received as well as the comments on blogs and posts in the Private Schools Forum, many parents complain that schools act unreasonably or unilaterally when it comes to how their children are handled. So, who's fault is it? The school's? Your child's? And what do you do about it?

Let's look at the warning signs. The usual tip-offs include:

  • a miserably unhappy child who complains about school
  • a note requesting a conference with your child's teacher
  • a generalized feeling that a teacher is picking on your child
So what do you do? Blame the school? Blame yourself? Blame your child? Relax. Clear your mind of all negative thoughts. Go prepared to listen and absorb all the information which is going to be given to you.

Let's look at several scenarios:

The Teacher Nobody Likes

Every child is going to encounter at least one teacher with whom she just does not get along. It's a good lesson for a child too, because the real world is full of people we don't understand or relate to easily. We have all worked for a few of those people, haven't we?

The lesson for your child to learn is how to devise a way of managing the situation in the best way possible. It is not an easy lesson to learn. Since children tend to see things as being either right or wrong, you will need to teach her to accentuate the good, positive things about the teacher and to try to ignore the negative. Naturally, you need to monitor the situation. Ask for a meeting with the teacher. Try to evaluate where the disconnect between your child and the teacher occurs. Once you determine that, explain your concerns to the teacher. Work with the teacher to resolve the misunderstanding, which, hopefully, is all the problem is anyway. If the situation does not improve within a week or so, ask for a meeting with an administrator such as the dean of students or the headmaster, as you deem appropriate.

My Child Would Never Do That!

Perhaps your child would never do that in your presence, but how your child behaves at school when he is surrounded by dozens of his peers could be another story altogether. Listen to the facts of the alleged misdeed, accept the proof offered, assure the school that it will not happen again. Then when you and your child are alone, get to the bottom of the real reason for the misdeed. Is it just adolescent mischievousness or is it the manifestation of a more troubled youth? Is a reaction to a troubled marriage? Are family finances causing stress?

Misbehaving is easily dealt with. Simple withdrawal of privileges for a specific length of time should suffice. For the more serious psychological issues consider getting some counseling if necessary or perhaps a serious talk with a trusted family adviser or mentor will do the trick. You know your child. Go with your best judgment.

Difficulties With the Academics

If your child is struggling with her academic work, listen to the teacher's professional recommendations. It could be something physical such as a vision or hearing issue. Perhaps there is a learning difficulty underlying your child's problems with her studies. If the school recommends that your child be evaluated professionally, you need to consider that recommendation very carefully. Don't be insulted or offended. The school has your child's best interests at heart.

The Bottom Line

Be aware that you must resolve the situation. Why? Because private schools operate under what is known as contract law. There are no constitutional rights in a private school. You signed those away when you signed the enrollment agreement. That means that if the school decides that you and your child are not cooperating, there is a good possibility that your child will be asked to leave the school at the end of the academic year.

Finally, if, after exhausting all avenues for resolution of the matter, you are still not satisfied with the school has handled the situation, you always have the option of withdrawing your child.


Keep the lines of communication open. Discuss issues calmly. Don't rush to judgment. Get all the facts. Listen carefully to all sides of the issue. Try to understand the school's point of view. Stay involved. Be observant.

Each situation is unique. So you will have to use your wisdom and experience in dealing with people and circumstances to resolve whatever the problem is. That's what a good parent does.

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