Parents know that part of raising confident, independent kids includes encouraging them to solve their own problems. But it can be tricky sometimes to know when a child should be expected to handle a situation on their own or when mom or dad should get involved. Here we presented several common dilemmas to area professionals to get their input on managing this delicate balance.
Your 9-year-old son says his teacher doesn’t like him. He feels like she singles him out in class more than the other kids when he makes a mistake. You can’t be sure whether this is true, or just his perception. As time passes, your son appears to be coming home from school more and more discouraged.
The first time your child says this, hear them out. After you have listened, simply say, ‘I am sure your teacher will like you very much once she gets to know you,’ and offer your interpretation of the situation. For example, a child may interpret a teacher’s correcting a poor behavior choice as dislike of him or her rather than of that behavior. If your child voices this concern a second or third time, that’s when it may be time to schedule a meeting with the teacher.
Hold the meeting in person – the best communication takes place face-to-face. Ask the teacher for any advice she might have to help your son feel more positive about school. Treat her as a professional. If the situation doesn’t improve, get the principal or school guidance counselor involved to help repair the relationship between your child and his teacher.
Deb Krupowicz, Preschool, Elementary and Middle School Teacher for over 20 years; Author of Indy’s Child’s “Ask the Teacher” column
Your 12-year-old daughter lives and breathes soccer. She works hard, has steadily improved and is objectively one of the better players on the team. Unfortunately, it seems as though her coach hasn’t noticed. She doesn’t get much playing time and it’s starting to get her down.
First of all, always encourage your child to have fun – it’s the most important thing in youth sports. Never let your child hear you complain about their playing time; don’t let her take her playing time personally; and continually instill the importance of effort and a positive attitude.
If you feel it’s time to talk to the coach, avoid having the conversation 1 hour before a game, or in the 23-hour window following a game. I call this the 24-hour rule. During the meeting, ask the coach what your child’s strengths as a player are, what they could be doing better as a player and how they might position themselves to see more playing time. Remember that cooler heads prevail.
Steve Franklin, Director of Coaching Education, Indiana Soccer, Indianapolis
Your 10-year-old daughter has become the target for some recent bullying. She struggles with her weight a bit and some girls at school are making unkind remarks to her about it. She says the teasing doesn’t really bother her, but you suspect it’s upsetting her more than she is letting on.
Empower your daughter to stand up for herself. Talk with her about how to do this, and even consider role-playing at home so she can practice. This could also be a great time to talk to your daughter about her attitude toward food and exercise – sending the right messages regarding eating and exercise habits is so important.
Dr. Jenny Tarbox, Bloom Psychology Services, Indianapolis
Depending on the daughter’s maturity level, the best option may be to first let her try to handle the issue on her own. If you have good evidence that she really is hurting, however, try offering your understanding and then work together to problem-solve. If the situation escalates, then it may be appropriate to involve the parents of the other children or the child’s teacher.
Dr. Donahue, Bloom Psychology Services, Indianapolis
NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS PROBLEM
Your 7-year-old son is rather shy and has some difficulty in social situations. He wants to play with the neighborhood boys, but feels awkward approaching them. The boys aren’t intentionally leaving him out of the fun, they simply haven’t noticed him yet.
Find out if your child is struggling with anxious self-talk, like ‘The other kids will not let me play if I ask,’ or ‘They don’t like me.’ Ensure your child is using positive, truthful self-talk. Discuss ways to ask to play, share, carry on a two-way conversation and take turns.
If you’ve been practicing social skills at home and your son still isn’t using them, start by setting up playdates with the children. Setting up these kinds of ‘teaching’ playdates gets harder as the child moves into middle school, so be proactive with your child now. Additionally, check in with your child’s teacher to find out more about how he’s socializing at school.
Elizabeth Cramer, Licensed School Counselor and Owner of Superheroes Counseling, Fishers.
It’s never easy to see our kids struggle, and even harder to know when (or if) we should act on their behalf. By allowing them the opportunity to see if they can resolve a problem on their own however, they have the chance to build valuable self-confidence. Just as valuable though, is knowing that their parents “have their back” and can be relied on to step in when they truly need their help.