Have you ever been having a conference with a parent and you feel yourself conscientiously lying to them or intentionally omitting what you want to say or should be saying? I understand the importance of the “little white lie”.
I even understand the need to do so to not hurt the feelings of the parents. But, if we truly stop to think about it, are we doing them a disservice by constantly sugar coating the issues? I realize that every situation is different so I will try not to discuss any sweeping generalizations, but I am betting that many educators will understand my perspective.
Here is just one example. I am in a parent meeting and I know the history of this family because this is the third child through the building. I know the mom graduated from our local college, but does not work, yet sends her child to day care after school until the father comes home from work around 6pm. I know the parents prefer their older child and have seen them out to dinner with the older child while the younger one was left at day care an extra hour. I know that the parents never follow through on any of our suggestions. I know the parents tell us everything they think we want to hear but never actually do anything to help their child.
We have our regular meetings with these parents on attendance, academic concerns, socialization issues and the list goes on and on. We give the parents strategies that we know they won’t implement. We give them advice we know they will ignore. We ask for their help, which we know we will not get. So when should the lying and charade end?
It is hard to look a parent in the eyes and tell them,” You are not doing your job as a parent.” It is hard to say to them, “Your child is having difficulty in school because of YOU, not them. You need to wake up and get your 6-year-old child on the bus. Then there will not be an attendance issue. You need to make them do their homework at night. Then there will not be an academic issue. They are 8 years old and you are the adult. You are the parent and the leader of the household, not the child. Quit letting your child be cruel to the other kids and quit making excuses for them. Then they will have friends at school and not be known as the mean kid.”
I know it is hard to do and I know that we may not even get results or a change by saying those things to a parent. But at what point do we state the truth and let the chips fall where they may? Is it possible that no one has ever challenged these parents and questioned their parenting habits so they simply do not know any better? We may not save or change them all by being honest but maybe it is time we give it a try.
As an educator we are not out of this equation. If there are parents that have never been told the honest truth and after doing so needs help, you need to be prepared to educate them. Start a parent academy. Start a parent-mentoring program. To just be honest and not be helpful at the same time is being cruel. If you are going to be honest with them you also have to be prepared to help them by educating them, advising them, and being there for them as they being their new experience as a quality parent.