Update note: Due to neutle’s comment below (see comments) I realized that I didn’t title this post correctly. It was, Does Public School Encourage Bad Parenting Behavior?, although technically I’ve seen the same sort of behavior I discuss below happen with families in various school systems. Charter, public, private and so on – basically I’ve seen this kind of stuff in schools with achievement based goals and a set age-based curriculum in place. In any case, I changed the title of the post to better reflect this.
1. Parents spewing violence and arbitrary consequences:
The main reason I’ve been so upset about school lately is this experience… A writer friend of mine, posted the following on her Facebook page. “Looking for creative ideas from parents on how to encourage, inspire and threaten kids to focus more on school work and grades.” The comments she got amazed me, but not in a good way. Comments included stuff like…
- “The thing that got my attention was taking away my sports. Whatever their passion is what will do it if you take it away.”
- “If my kids get grades below what they are capable of, they spend the next 4-1/2 weeks grounded to the dining room table. No TV, IPod, computer…nothing except homework, or books to read. If they don’t want to read they have the option of copying pages out of the dictionary.”
- “I’ve got a solution that always works for me….threaten them with a size 15 up the ass!” (WTF?!)
- “Trip to the wood shed ! hahaha”
- “Take away Internet, cell phone, video games, netbook and all toys…only books…once homework becomes a consistent thing, he can earn one item back at a time.“
I. Am. Appalled.
The entire thread ruined my day. Beating kids about grades? Taking away their only passion? Forcing them to sit for hours on end, after they’ve already been forced to sit on their butt all day at school? I cannot be the only person to think this is entirely sick behavior, can I?
What is the point of treating kids, or anyone, this way? Good grades (way overrated). Good college (overrated). Good life (um, all evidence to the contrary).
Treating your kids this way can’t be because you want to raise happy kids, because trust me, taking away passions and hitting does not result in happy kids. If a friend of mine stole all my stuff, banned me from my passion or hit me, well, how long do you think we’d be friends? If you said, “Not very long,” congrats.
2. Parents believing that their kids are learning disabled:
A parent acquaintance of mine (we’ll call her X) has two kids in public school. Both kids, IMO, are super smart, creative, funny people. Their school, however, has decided that both kids have as, X puts it, “Disabilities.” Both kids can read and write. Both can form intelligent sentences. Both come up with highly creative ideas when left to their own devices. Both have friends. These are two totally fine, smart, well-adjusted kids.
The school doubts these are smart kids though and has placed one of them in a special ed. math class. This child now thinks, or at least has told me, that she’s, “Stupid – because the teachers say so.” She’s not stupid. I’ve seen her do plenty of math, on her own terms. She’s just not doing exactly the same math, the exact same way, on the exact same schedule, as everyone else. That’s not a symptom of a disability the last time I checked. That’s called being an individual.
The other kid has been forced into after school tutoring because, “He’s not doing as well as he could be doing.” The teachers told X, “One of your son’s learning disabilities is…” then dived into many reasons why this kid is not up to par. X accepted this without a word. I guess because the school said so. This is a kid who places in advanced classes and he’s so smart with some subjects it’s scary. Clearly, this child has zero learning disabilities, yet the school and his parents think he could be doing even better. Neither of the kids’ parents have debated these issues with the school. It’s like they 100% accept it at face value when the school says that their kids are learning disabled.
This isn’t unique. I’ve watched plenty of families in public school go through this same situation. I’ve talked to tons of public school kids who, based on teachers’ input, will say, “I’m stupid” or “I’m disabled” or “I can’t learn such and such topic.”
The parents are the worst though.
How could a parent, who has raised their child from birth, not know their own kid? How could a parent take one school’s opinion at face value and believe that their child is dumb or unable to learn? Mostly, I see parents who act surprised, “Wow, I had no idea little Joe had a learning disability – we’d better get him help stat!” In most of these cases, the parents never question the school’s opinion or defends their child.
My son is absolutely better at some things than others. That’s the way all humans are. I’m not shocked that Cedar is better with math problems than he is with reading – he likes math more. I know that he doesn’t love cooking, but does enjoy art. I’ve raised him. I know him. I know his strengths and his challenges and dislikes. I also know that most challenges do not equal disability. Yes, there are people with learning disabilities. That said, I’ve seen dozens of public school kids go through this who clearly just learn differently, not worse, than others.
Parents not speaking up for their kids; parents not defending their child’s way of learning; parents not questioning the system that’s judging their kids as smart or disabled, is not, in my opinion, very good parenting.
3. Parents turned jail warden due to homework:
My son goes to free school, so he doesn’t have homework. My boyfriend’s two daughters who live with us part-time attend public school. To say they have some homework would be a serious understatement. When they’re at our house, all that’s happening is homework. Homework has taken over the house and most of our time. The weekends aren’t as much fun anymore. Everyone gets cranky and upset.
None of this homework going on, by the way, is in anyway related to actual learning. If the kids wanted to learn this stuff, if they wanted to do the work, it’d be a different story.
However, the kids aren’t learning about topics they’re interested in, they’re just struggling to get what the teacher wants to see down on paper. Homework at our house is all about figuring out ways to force the kids to do it. This create jail warden parents. Parents who force their kids to do what the school says to do at all costs. What it doesn’t create are kids who are learning, or even interested in learning.
I have A LOT more to say about the homework issue, but for now I’ll just say, thanks schools for making our weekends so awesome!
To sum up:
We’ve got parents hitting their kids and taking away their child’s one passion. We’ve got parents believing (or at least acting like they believe) that their kids aren’t smart and capable. We’ve got parents who don’t stick up for their kids, but instead accept what some random teacher (who has known them how long?) says about them. We’ve got parents forcing their kids to sit for hours during their free-time, free-time that even adults get from work, to do homework that kids don’t want to do and don’t learn from.
Is any of this good parenting?
Why are parents acting like this? I guess we could blame the school system. To do that though, means we have to assume that parents are being forced at gunpoint, by the school system, to do terribly lame things to their kids, which of course isn’t happening. Parents can still think for themselves right?
I’d like to think that parents have it within them to be more than simply yes men for the school system. I’d like to think that parents know their kids well enough that they don’t need a school to tell them what their kids are really like. I’d like to think that all parents believe kids should learn for the sake of gaining useful knowledge, not for some test or grade. I’d love to think that nothing matters more than a child’s well-being and happiness.
Sadly, over the last few weeks I’ve lost faith in parents. I’ve seen too many parents do and say really harsh things, simply because their kid is not living up to some arbitrary public school ideal of perfection.
If parents don’t trust that their kids can learn without all this muck above, then how on earth are our kids going to trust their own learning abilities? It doesn’t make sense and it’s super frustrating.
What sort of parent behaviors have you seen that’s been urged on by public schooling?