“It takes a village to raise a child” is a proverb worth remembering when you disagree with your child’s teacher or your father-in-law; when a neighbor presumes to tell you how to discipline your child; or even when your own precocious offspring inform you that some parents-website article says your preferred rules are toxic to children’s self-esteem. Rather than win a battle at the cost of starting a war, consider the benefits to your kids when the adults in their lives are all on the same team.
Here’s how to do your share in building a “village” where your children can grow up secure and confident.
Listen more than you talk. (And remember, you aren’t really listening if you’re focused on finding rebuttal points.)
Always try to see the other party’s point of view: it’s unlikely they’re questioning your parenting approach solely for the pleasure of getting on your nerves. (Even the neighbor who is always minding someone else’s business is driven by legitimate desire to feel respected and important.)
Asking for advice is a proven means of building mutual respect and defusing hard feelings. If you find no value in an in-law’s “how to parent” ideas, avoid dwelling on that subject and request help mentoring your kids in some activity your in-law is naturally good at.
Communicate your position through “I” statements (“I feel I haven’t had space to explain my ideas,” not, “You never let me get a word in”).
For the occasional disagreement that still ends in impasse, walk away as respectfully as possible, without slamming every possible door to future reconsideration and/or reconciliation. People remember the taste you leave in their mouths better than they remember the actual point of disagreement, so if you can’t be friends or even allies, at least do your best to create an aura of mutual respect.
And if the people telling you to how to raise your kids are the kids themselves: don’t fall back on the tired old “because I’m your mother/father and that’s that” approach, which only communicates that you’ve run out of legitimate points. If you’ve listened to the child’s side and can’t agree with it, a friendly-but-firm, “I respect your right to think differently, but this is the way it’s going to be for now” is enough to close the discussion without excessive hard feelings.
Note to Teachers
Today’s educational atmosphere can leave you feeling like a defendant in court: you never know when a parent or administrator might jump into your face over your teaching approach. The following tips can help keep the peace and the teamwork attitude:
Always treat the kids with respect. Parents have every right to complain if a child comes home in tears over being humiliated.
Invite both kids and parents to offer regular input.
Remember that every opinion has valid concerns behind it.
When a disagreement surfaces, keep the conversation focused on points of agreement and on proactive ideas for solving any problems.
Remember that the goal is not to vindicate your current way of doing things, but to do what’s best and, as far as is possible, find a win-win outcome for all parties involved. Definitely including the students.
A “TEAM” SCHOOL FOR CHILDREN
At Shady Oak Primary School, we believe in giving children an early start on using their individual abilities and participating in collaborative projects. Our students are encouraged from day one to make active contributions, think for themselves, and believe in themselves. Contact us to learn more about our approach to primary education.