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HomeLearning DifficultiesAutism & Other Disorders

It Worked: Setting Goals for the Future

A mother describes a strategy that helped her communicate with her son and his teacher about an issue they disagreed on.

GreatSchools Blog

By GreatSchools Staff

Name: Debi

State: California

Child's Age: 12

Child's School Level: Middle

Area(s) child struggles: Math, Self-esteem, Writing

Describe how another person - a family member, teacher, or classmate - negatively affected your child's learning and/or well-being.

My son had a teacher in middle school who suggested that he choose a profession that did not require a college education because in their opinion he would not be successful.

Describe how you responded to the situation, including the actions you took or strategies you used to support or defend your child in the situation.

First, we had a discussion with our son. We discussed how the teacher's comment made him feel, if he agreed or disagreed with the comment, and what did he believe about whether he could be successful or not in college. We then talked about what steps would need to be taken to help him reach his goal of going to college.

We scheduled a meeting with the teacher to discuss what we had talked about as a family and voiced our differing opinion. We also tried to instill in our son that individuals are going to have different opinions about what they believe you are capable of, but you need to balance that with your understanding of what your strengths and weaknesses are (we all have them), determine what you are willing to do, and set goals and realistic expectations.

How did your child handle the situation?

At first he was reluctant and angry because he felt very misunderstood and felt that no matter what he did (try hard or not) the outcome was not much different. I believe that when a child is not affirmed when they are successful, they will begin to believe messages about themselves that are external in nature whether they were spoken with the best or worst of intentions. For us it was more important that he understood who he was, what he was capable of, what he wanted to do and then going for it and letting him know that we supported him as well as many others. Don't spend all your energy on who or what seems to be the biggest obstacle - put it in perspective. It was helping him to come to a better understanding and awareness of himself so that he could begin to make informed decisions for his education and life. He has responded well.

Describe 3 things you learned from the situation?

  • Collaboration is important, even when you disagree.
  • Remember to require at least as much of yourself (and other adults) if not more than you require of the child.
  • Education is one piece of the whole child. Keep it in perspective.

Describe 3 things your child learned from the situation?

  • That there are adults (including teachers) who do want to see you succeed.
  • It is important to understand what you are good at and where you might need additional help and support.
  • Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to, especially if you can't see how they will later apply in life.

What do you think the other party learned from the situation?

That words either spoken with the best of intentions or worst of intentions are very powerful, so be very thoughtful about the words you are choosing before speaking.

Was there anything you wish you had done differently?

In general, through the whole process, I wish we would have acted sooner.

What advice would you give other parents in this type of situation?

Allow your child to be a part of the decision-making process. We found that the more discussions that we appropriately involved our son in that affected his life day to day, the more willing he was to offer suggestions and ideas to the process, as well as learning that we all need to compromise and make concessions at various times in life, not just in school.

 

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

02/9/2011:
"I had an experience just like this when I was a high school student. Because of this I applied to an avg college got a degree and confidence. I then went on to grad school and was a successful exec w a fortune 500 company. I didn't have parents that spoke up even though they were very supportive throughout my school career. You just didn't do that back then. The moral of the story - you have to an advocate for your child. Aggressive, fact based, and demanding of excellence. No one else gives a hoot but you the parent!"
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