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Why Parents Just Don’t Understand


This post is not about parent shaming, rather to uncover the reasons why parents may not ever see their child from your perspective. The reasons for that disconnect could be the antidote you’ve been looking for when trying to come up with a plan of action.

Their support along with two-way collaboration ensure a child has the highest rate of success potential in the classroom. It’s important to uncover any and all road blocks hindering the development of this partnership.

Why might a child act or perform differently in the classroom than at home?

There is a plethora of reasons why children seem to be two different people at home and at school. This is what contributes to parents not understanding your point of view when it comes to their child. Below are just three reasons your students might display different behaviors in your classroom:

  • Peer pressure– Children want to be well liked by their peers and school is a social setting. In order to “fit in,” many students will act in whatever manner gets rewarded by their peers. So if you are sharing with a parent that their child is sassing back, for example, and the parent is shocked because their child has never done that at home you might think about the idea of peer pressure. Does this child hang out with (or desire to hang out) other students who sass adults? It could be happening in your classroom, on the bus or even in the lunch room. The best way to determine is to watch the child during non-academic times to see who they associate with and how they behave with their peers. Then, share these notes with the parent.
  • Learning Frustration– Oftentimes when we are learning something new we can become frustrated when we do not grasp the concept immediately. This frustration can turn into other behaviors that might be unique to the child’s personality. For example, maybe you have a happy, outgoing student but during math class they become shy and withdrawn. The frustration they are experiencing in learning something new in math has altered their normal demeanor. This might be why a parent does not see that behavior at home, unless they have observed their child learning a new concept and becoming frustrated in a scenario at home.
  • Peter Pan Syndrome– This syndrome often refers to individuals who are older but act younger. The reference to Peter Pan is due to the idea of one never growing up, just like the character in the story Peter Pan. However, in the classroom setting, the idea is that the child wants to act their age or younger- most often to fit in with peers or to let loose for a change. This often happens to only children who are more mature acting at home when around adults but then alter their behavior at school when around children of their own age. The most popular display of this idea is in a child’s speech (ie. baby talk or cool lingo).

So what can you do?

These simple steps are helpful to find resolution with any conflict, especially with parent partnerships:

  1. Identify the Reason– You first must get to the root of the problem so that you can then work the solution. Think about the 3 potential reasons listed above as playing a part in the disconnect with a student’s parent. If these three do not seem to fit your circumstance, brainstorm other potential causes. Your colleagues and a quick internet search can help!
  2. Create a Plan of Action– Once you know the cause, now its time to reach the resolution. But first, you have to take time to make a plan so that you know how to get there (and in the most efficient manner). Grab paper and make a list of steps required of the student, parent and yourself to reach resolution. For example, if a student was withdrawing only during math class I would make note of the date, time and describe the behavior (ie. head down on desk, sharpening pencil multiple times, or maybe doodling in notebook). Then I would want to talk with the student to confirm my assumption. This will definitely be the most important step because you can share with the parent what the student said to you verbatim. The last step would then be to report these findings to the parent via phone, email or in-person. (I highly suggest in person or phone for important matters.)
  3. Implement the Plan of Action– With the plan in hand, its time to put it into action! Begin the hard work. Document your progress on your planning sheet.
  4. Revise (if necessary)- Sometimes we hit more roadblocks as we begin our work or we might even realize that what we thought was the reason for a hiccup is inaccurate. Then simply revise and begin the cycle again until the problem is resolved.

Now that you have a better understanding of why students act differently in a school setting than at home, you can approach the parent to help them see the differences too. Invite them in to the classroom to see for themselves. This is the most convincing method!

Parents are understanding people when you approach them in a professional manner with facts and a listening ear. They often appreciate your perspective but it may not make the truth easy to hear or see. Collaborating with parents is healthy and productive for all involved, so sharing openly is the goal.

Do you want to improve communication with your students’ parents? These parent communication tools can help! Take a look here.

How do you get on the same page with the parents of your students?





About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.