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Published on September 03, 2013

Conflict in the Classroom

Dr. Joanna Bisgrove helps your teens and pre-teens make the most of the school year

For many parents of middle and high schoolers, the days of teacher worship are long gone. As kids get older, they begin to develop their own ways of learning. They also seek the ability to exert autonomy not just at home, but outside the home as well.

While this is a rite of passage for most adolescents, this quest for autonomy increases the chance for conflict between your child and one or more of their teachers.

Don’t let an entire school year be ruined if your child isn’t a fan of his or her teacher. Try these tips to help unhappy kids make the most of the situation:

  • Use it as a Lesson: There will always be adults and peers that your kids don’t see eye to eye with — but that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve respect. Explain to your teen that in order to have their own opinions be respected, they need to respect the opinions of others. Teach your kids to be patient and listen to what others have to say. Show them ways to find the good in others, no matter what.
  • Practice What You Preach: Your own actions can go a long way toward helping your child cope with his or her feelings. Talk about their teacher in positive and respectful terms. Highlight everything about the teacher that your child likes, and they will feed off of that energy. Does the teacher have a way of making math fun? Do they choose interesting class books? Are they a whiz at planning unique field trips? Do they take the time to answer questions and give their students the attention they need? Reinforce with your teen that this is a great opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Talk It Out: Get to the root of the issue by talking with your kids and asking for examples of what they’re unhappy with. This can help you advise them on how to best interact with the teacher and get the most out their time together.
  • Make It A Team Effort: Discuss the situation with the teacher — when done collaboratively, parents and teachers often discover ways to improve the teacher-student relationship and enhance the learning environment for the child. Remember to show respect and avoid a confrontational tone — the goal is to help your child, not assign blame for the situation. Give the teacher one or two ways you effectively interact with your child for them to try. Set up an arrangement with the teacher for the both of you to communicate in the future – either by email or by phone. Follow through on your end of the deal, contacting the teacher at prearranged intervals (weekly, monthly, etc.) if you do not hear from them.

How do you manage conflict in the classroom? Share your tips below. Looking for help with conflict among classmates? Check out our bullying resources.

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