There are at least two worlds for most every child...inside the home and outside the home (I will tell you now, If you home school, this isn’t the blog post for you). For most of us, inside and outside the home translate to ‘home or school’. As a teacher sitting down to conference with parents year after year, I prepare myself for at least 3 scenarios to possibly come to fruition;
- Child is the same child at school and at home...challenging behaviors or not. Parents and teachers can joke or cry together as they share expertise and move forward on goals.
- Child is struggling at school but is “perfect at home”.
- Child is the purest form of teacher dream in all ways, and is a major terror at home.
- We’re all good!!! No matter what, and we’re sticking together. Parents and teachers are on the same page, the kiddo in question is getting the gift of shared expertise and reflection from all ends.
just as much as a parent can). I’d need to be a licensed therapist to effectively delve into it. Or this
picture is missing so much information it needs more time and information sharing before the situation
can move forward.
Child number 3 has the ‘shitty-feeling, downtrodden, desperate to change things parent’ written all over it. This is where I can share some expertise...
One parent follower recently shared this about her 9 year old:
“She is sweet as a Georgian Peach outside the home…inside, more of a pre-teen terror…screaming, favorite word is NO…any advice? Desperate for a solution…”
My first experience with this phenomenon was long ago…I remember dragging myself to pick up my 4 year old daughter from child care sometime in the mid 90’s (which means, if you want to picture this, I was in my late 20s wearing an oversized tunic and patterned leggings, probably carrying a sibling baby on my hip) not feeling too excited to parent another evening away in power struggles. Our evenings had been going something like this:
She says: “…then you can’t come to my birthday party!!” and slams the door behind her. I go after her and yell through closed bedroom door “…then who is going to pay for it?!”
So, back at the preschool, I am greeted by her teacher, (who in her defense was one of my former colleagues) and as part of my normal routine I asked, “How was her day?” ...and then mustering confidence in a plaintive almost desperate way I added, “We’ve been having a really hard time at home lately”... And before I could even fully express my fatigue and desperation, the teacher says “Ohhh…she is just such an angel! We have no problems with her here, ever.”
Ever?! Screw you!
Not only was I battling parenting fatigue, but I had a drama queen (4 going on 21 daughter) on my hands. Her tutus and Disney princess fetishes hid her talent for tying me in knots. Around this same time she had feigned a kidnapping at a restaurant during a big family dinner, screaming “this is not my mother, leave me alone!!” at the top of her lungs all the way to the door as I was taking her for a “small break outside” during a tableside meltdown. Triple sigh, just remembering it.
Fast forward 20 years and my two-headed monster of the 90’s, is my beautiful and amazing 23 year old daughter. She is still incredibly socially mature and independent. God forbid I get in the way of her plans. (I know because I’ve tried, with much the same verbage “who will pay for it?”). Recently, friends who socialize with us both, together and apart, mentioned how funny and surprising it was to watch Kelsey be annoyed by her mother.
Some patterns never change? My oldest daughter is my best friend and has been since the moment she was born. I believe this feeling is mutual. That said, I am her mother, not her peer. We’ve grown up together. More than with any of her siblings, this kids has been with me on the entire journey. Even at my worst I have been her one steady, safe, and sustaining person... and all my decisions, right or wrong, have held what I believed to be her best interest at heart. That means we share the good, bad, and the ugly. She needs me, yet she doesn’t. Even at 6 weeks old, I had this weird motherly intuition that she needed a bit of break from me, even just a few hours a day. Whether this was a symptom of mentally preparing for going back to work or not, I’ll never know; but I do remember clearly thinking as we were rocking together…’I am starting to bore her, it is time to add some new characters to her life’. The pattern has never changed….can’t wait to be together...but, enough is enough, I know your routine, you are starting to bore me.
But, back to what helped me survive these discrepancies in home and school, It was optimism. I tend to look on the bright side...silver lining type parenting, my cup is (usually!) half full. And damn if I’m not proud to have kids, who despite struggling with impulse control, and focus for learning, behave themselves at school, at synagogue, in sports, and most any time out of our home. My kids were wild banshees that let loose back in their home environment, but most of the time, they were known as ‘the kids that teachers could count on’ at school. I began to realize I could suck it up and struggle along with the hard stuff, as long as I could count on them to behave most of the time when in other people’s care, or when part of group activities.
I reframed the story for myself in other ways too. I started to reflect on how I feel when I get home from a day of work, ready for my glass of wine...my ‘grown up way’ of needing to let loose. Are our kids really any different??
I’ve seen versions of this story transpire over the years in my preschool programs. Kiddos happily engaged all day long at school, and then parents walk in and, like a light switch, that same kiddo falls apart… sometimes in tears, sometimes by suddenly getting out of control, sometimes just wanting to get out of school as fast as they can… a day at child care or school is a day at work for children. Just as we dig deep to maintain professionalism in our workplaces, children dig even deeper to manage their behavior all day long. For a child with special needs, higher sensitivity to changing environments, or challenges with impulse control; there may be an even more drastic difference between environments.
I’ve had my adult sons home on college break and they recently felt the need to have some serious discussions with me about their younger brother, Jake: “He’s a terror, you let him get away with so much. He’s a jerk.” Well, not even five minutes later, I received an email from his teacher… “Jake was nominated to participate in a special assembly tomorrow because he has the most off the chart positive behavior points for the year.”
Not only does this crack me up because it’s coming from two alpha members of the wild banshee pack, but here it is, history repeating itself.
...And, lastly, let’s circle back to teachers talking to parents about their children...Talking to parents about their children can be difficult for all kinds of reasons and parent teacher conferences can be very emotionally charged. Hearing things about your children that don’t match up with your experience can be shocking to both parent and teacher. Normalize these differences instead of exaggerating them. Wonder together. Promote the idea that children pushing boundaries is a developmental reality, and when they meltdown it can be a message that they feel confident that the adults around them will protect them.
Perhaps having a two-headed monster is a compliment? You provide just the comfort your child needs to thrive outside your relationship. What do you think?