How to resolve junior's dispute with their schoolteacher

Junior will be stressed to have conflicts with his teacher. Here are ways to help him straighten out the matter.

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Minor conflicts between your child and their teachers in school are not uncommon. If such matters are not resolved, it can become a significant source of stress for your kid.

Still, you may find it tough to fix your child’s teacher problems. For one, you weren’t present when the alleged incident took place. Also, your understanding of the matter will be affected by your child’s account of what took place.

Make a wrong move — such as accusing the teacher of something they didn’t do — and you risk losing the teacher’s support. So, make sure to approach your offpsring’s teacher — or any school staff — tactfully.

Dr Vaani Gunaseelan, a psychologist at Think Psychological Services’, has tips you can follow:

* Approach them quietly and be tactful when you share your concerns. Don’t make personal attacks on the teacher, or use an accusatory or blaming tone.

* Appeal to the teacher for their help in working out the issue with you, so as to bring out the best in your child.

* Don’t bring along a third-party — the teacher may get the impression that you are ambushing them. If you need a third party to be present, do let the teacher know in advance, instead of springing a surprise on the teacher.

If your child’s teacher reacts aggressively, keep your cool and do not engage in an argument with the teacher, Dr Vaani advises.

If your child’s teacher reacts aggressively, keep your cool and do not engage in an argument, Dr Vaani advises. Instead, check to see if there are other teachers from the school — like the principal, head of department or mediator — who can assist with the matter. Then, keep them in the loop, so that the matter can be resolved amicably.

The experts have advice on handling tricky situations…

SITUATION #1 Being punished by teachers unfairly

WHAT? Junior tells you their teacher has punished them for not submitting their homework on time. They feel the their punishment — detention for the whole week — outweighs the severity of their mistake.

HOW SHOULD YOU HELP? As a parent, you may feel anxious to rush in and rescue your child but you shouldn’t, advises Joy Ong Shu Xin, a senior counsellor at InspireJoy. At least, not until you’ve a better understanding of the situation. “[Sometimes,] we could use the situation as a teachable moment for our child to learn conflict management and problem-solving skills.”

First, listen empathetically to your child’s account and give them the emotional support they need to process their feelings. Then, Ong suggests that you brainstorm with junior for solutions to prevent this issue from happening again. This includes making sure to complete their homework on time.

However, if you’re worried about the punishment being given to your child, Ong stresses that you convey your concerns to the teacher directly. You should also seek their help in coming up with a solution to help your kiddo complete their work on time.


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SITUATION #2 Favouritism by the teacher

WHAT? Your young ’un tells you that their teacher always showers attention on a particular student in class, who can never seem to do any wrong. Your kiddo’s peers are also aware of the teacher’s blatant favouritism.

HOW SHOULD YOU HELP? It can be difficult to prove or deny favouritism as you aren’t in the school with your child, says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness. Worse, the teacher might become defensive if you confront them. “Favouritism is a fact of life and utilising this as a learning point and strategising on how to cope together [with your child] will help them learn.”

So, rather than dealing with the problem with the teacher, it’s more useful to sit down with your child and talk about why it bothers him so much. Ong notes, “We could say: ‘You seem to be feeling really unfair and upset about the treatment. [I know] you wish to have an equal chance to participate too.’”

Dr Vaani suggests if you are in a chat group with fellow parents whose child are classmates, you can ask your trusted pals to see if their kids have experienced or witnessed favouritism by the teacher. If there are other parents who also have the same concern about that teacher, gently approach the teacher and share your concerns with him or her. “Focus on how it may affect your child, instead of launching a personal attack on the teacher.” Then, work with them to resolve this together.

SITUATION #3 Receiving sexually inappropriate questions by their teacher

WHAT? You find out from junior that their teacher has been asking them questions about sex when they are alone, which makes them feel uncomfortable and scared.

HOW SHOULD YOU HELP? While you may find it tough to stay calm, do ask your child about the frequency and the type of questions they were asked. Ong suggests, “If the adult makes graphic comments or asks sexually-inappropriate questions, it may be considered sexual harassment and a police report may need to be made, alongside notifying the principal.”

Dr Lim points out you should listen to your child carefully and make sure you do not give the impression that you do not believe your young un’s account.

“Favouritism is a fact of life and utilising this as a learning point and strategising on how to cope together [with your child] will help them learn.”

SITUATION #4 Being touched inappropriately by their teacher

WHAT? You learn from your child or a fellow parent that your child’s teacher has touched them inappropriately.

HOW SHOULD YOU HELP? It is important to note that sexual abuse doesn’t discriminate — your sons are just as likely as daughters to be victims. That said, inappropriate sexual acts on a child is a very serious matter and you need to inform the teachers and principal immediately, stresses Dr Vaani. “This is so that the necessary action can be taken to protect your child from further harm.”

She strongly advises that you bring your child to see a trained psychologist as sexual abuse is a very traumatic experience for any child. You must also encourage your child to share how they feel and help them understand that you will do what it takes to protect them from further harm.

Ong adds that’s why it is important to arm your child with body-safety skills and age-appropriate facts about sex, so they know when something is wrong and have the power to speak up.

SITUATION #5 Witnessing a teacher behaving inappropriately with another student

WHAT? Junior tells you that they have seen their teacher touch a classmate inappropriately and they don’t know what to do about it.

HOW SHOULD YOU HELP? It really depends on whether your child has witnessed the incident or if they are just relating something they’ve heard about. Dr Lim advises, “If indeed the incident has been witnessed by your child, going to the parent of the student may be the best solution.” If not, it will be difficult to proceed with any meaningful action if the rumour has little credibility. You can verify the accuracy of your child’s observations by getting them to ask if other students have observed similar incidents.

Your child has support in their school…

A Ministry of Education spokesperson reassures parents that schools have support systems such as teachers, counsellors and peers who look out students who are in distress. “Parents can approach school leaders when they observe a change in behaviour in their children, so that together, we can care for the well-being of our students.”

The spokesman also adds that all educators are expected to conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and any improper behaviour from teachers will be thoroughly investigated and dealt with.

Photos: iStock

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