By: James Burns I frequently think back to my childhood. I remember how my grandmother (Mom’s side) spent time at my house. To this day, she is still the sweetest old lady that I ever met. I was in an afternoon kindergarten program, and my grandmother took care of me during the mornings. Every morning when I woke up, she was sitting in a big chair right next to my bed. As soon as I opened my eyes she would wave and smile at me. I felt so secure seeing her in that chair. I really loved her a lot. My dad’s mom lived right up the street. When I became old enough, I used to walk over to her house, have lunch with her, do her grocery shopping for her, and then just hang around with her. She would give me a dollar for helping her. I saved those dollars to buy Christmas presents for my sisters, my mom, and my dad. Unfortunately, my dad's mom passed away when I was thirteen, and I still miss her today. My mom’s mom passed away when I was nineteen, and that was another big loss that I still feel.
It really doesn’t matter how old you are. You still need parenting. Just because someone is grown and married doesn’t mean that they still don’t need guidance and direction. I watched my maternal grandmother help my mom deal with things all the time. Whether it was raising her kids or dealing with my dad, my mom always spoke to her and sought her advice. When she died, it was almost as if my mother’s wheels fell off, and she started to stumble through life and always seemed to be looking for answers to some of life’s most basic questions. She seemed to have greater difficulty being married to my dad and seemed angry at times until the day she died. When my dad’s mom died, I noticed that he would drink more, and go off on benders for a few days. It was almost as if he lost his check valve and didn’t feel accountable to anyone.
After working with and talking to countless parents, I have drawn the following conclusion: Parents need parenting! I have spoken to many adults my own age and have found that their relationship with their parents is strained or they're not talking to their parents at all. I would ask them, “How long has it been since you spoke to your mom or dad,” expecting to hear that they just had a little spat and it was for a few days. A few days, try twenty years. During that twenty year period, I wonder how much wisdom they lost that they could have gotten from their parents. How much help with their children did they lose, or worse yet, what did the grandchildren lose because these parents despised their own mother or father?
No matter what the age, people need to be parented. Some individuals who have a poor relationship with their parents lose their grip on right and wrong and have a tremendous problem figuring out some of life’s most basic problems. These adult children often have a general sense of bitterness because of their poor relationship with their parents. They may feel resentful when they have problems raising their own children; because they become aware that they are receiving no direction or guidance from their own parents and that they have to figure everything out on their own. They might wonder what they're going to do with their child or what’s wrong with their child. They should be asking what’s wrong with them. Their children enter school and become problems for the teacher. They don’t do what they’re told to do and are disrespectful and non-compliant. The teacher calls home only to find a disrespectful and non-compliant parent on the other end who is defensive and who believes that the school isn’t being fair to their child. They berate the teacher and blame the school for all of the problems that their son or daughter is experiencing.
This was an all too frequent scenario for me. I dealt with many parents with this type of attitude as a teacher and as an administrator. In one district, I chose to run a parent support group. When I started the group I had seventy-five parents. They all did nothing but complain about the behavior of their kids and blamed the school for the problems their kids were experiencing. Once they discovered that I wasn’t going to play the blame game, my group dwindled down to a precious few and ultimately had to be discontinued.
Parents want help, but they want the wrong kind of help. They want someone to fix their kids, but they need to find someone to fix them. They don’t realize that the people who can offer them the most help were put naturally at their disposal for free, and that’s their parents. The question still remains, who will parent the parents? Schools have tried parenting programs.
These programs don’t work. They offer advice, but ultimately it’s up to the parents to follow through. The minute their kids gives them a hard time they revert right back to blaming everyone else, then start looking for more advice.
Who will parent the parents? Maybe society has to parent the parents. .Hopefully, someone will realize that all the wisdom, guidance, direction, support, love, and affection were theirs for the taking, but they chose to turn their backs on their biggest resource, their parents.
PARENTS CAN BE BULLY’S TOO
By: James Burns
Teachers who lose control of their classrooms usually do so because of the behavior of one or two students. Many times, the parents of these students have the ability to instill fear and intimidation into the teacher and in their own way bully the teacher. This scenario is all too familiar.
A student who is a bully gets reported by the victim to the teacher. The teacher doesn’t see the bullying, but is concerned about the report and believes it warrants a phone call home. The teacher calls home and is immediately put on the defensive by the parent. The parent begins to react to the teacher’s phone call and asks the following questions: Did you actually see my child bully someone else? Are you calling my son/daughter a liar? How do you know it was my child? Or, what did the other kid do to my son or daughter?
After the teacher catches his/her breathe and tries to respond, the parent then starts with comments such as these: I heard your entire class is out of control. My son/daughter has told me that you don’t like him/her. My child told me that he was bullied last week, and you did nothing about it. The parent then ends the conversation by saying the following: Unless you have some proof that my child bullied another student, don’t call me again, and then the parent hangs up. The next day the child comes to school and has more clout than before and continues the bullying behavior. The level of intimidation and fear starts to well up in the teacher, who now wonders what to do if there is another report from a victim that bullying is occurring again (by the same bully as before). This is a serious problem.
What usually does happen is the teacher does everything to avoid making that next phone call to the parent of the bully and begins to ignore the bully, including any bullying behaviors, and starts to surrender the authority in the classroom to the bully. Victims who are in this classroom have to sink or swim on their own and go to school every day filled with fear.
Amazingly, the teacher starts to see the victim as the problem. If the victim says that he or she is being bullied, the teacher says, “Stop being such a tattletale, go back to your seat.” What’s even worse is that the teacher disciplines everyone else in the classroom, but not the bully. The rest of the class begins to see the teacher as siding with the bully, and the teacher appears to be agreeing with the bullying behavior. Everyone loses.