5 tips for when you learn your child isn’t perfect

April 16, 2013 | 9 comments

Around here it’s time for parent-teacher conferences. I don’t know about you but any time another adult cares for my child and I get feedback, formally or informally, positive or negative, I struggle to respond properly.

When I hear the positive comments…

“Your son is so thoughtful. A new little girl to our Sunday School was upset and he sat right next to her and asked about her picture.” or “Your son has a great sense of humor.” or “He is such a cuddler.” or “He is the easiest baby in our class.”

I know a simple ‘thank you’ is appropriate, but instead I quickly respond with a qualifier: “True, but he can also be a handful”. 

Of course the positive comments are nice to get, but I’m quick to forget them.

The ones which get engrained in my brain? The criticisms.

Everyone of my boys has gone through a “season”. A time when I attempted to pick him up from class as quickly as possible, avoiding eye-contact with the teacher, and never asking “Did he have a good day?” Because I couldn’t handle hearing one more time about his imperfect behavior.

The good news about having had each boy go through a challenging season, is I’ve toughened up. a little. 

{Ok, there was the time recently when I picked up one of my boys from school on my birthday and heard he had been to the director’s office (for hitting, sticking his tongue out at the teacher, & throwing a chair).  I did get bleary eyed.  As I left the school I saw the director and I said, “Well, that wasn’t the best way to celebrate a birthday.” To which she responded, “Oh it’s his birthday?”…Uh NO, It’s mine! His trip to the director’s office affected MY birthday because I hadn’t completely separated his behavior from my parenting. But I’m better…}

From my multiple encounters with teachers regarding my boys (yes, the oldest is only in first grade…but he’s already been to 5 schools!)…here are a few things I’ve learned: 

1. Remember he is a sinner…

It’s true. As hard as it is to hear from someone else that your child isn’t perfect…the truth is, he/she isn’t perfect. He is a sinner. You are a sinner. We all have failed and fall short of the glory of God.

2. Don’t take responsibility for his behavior…

When I get feedback from teachers, I try to keep in mind I have trained him at home. The teachers have set up rules and consequences in their classroom. Any misbehavior at that point is on his head. He has to own it. Takes me back to the “let him be a jerk” idea. Don’t apologize for him. He can apologize for himself and receive the consequences himself.

3. Ask the teacher how you can help…

Often times I am so embarrassed that the teacher thinks I am a horrible parent that I start explaining reasons he may have misbehaved instead of asking how we can work together. I think a few times my defense included, “This isn’t my first rodeo”…um, that didn’t go over well. One teacher told me I needed to be tough now because it’s harder when they are teenagers…she assumed we didn’t give consequences at home. This allowed me to explain our discipline system.

4. Teach the teachers about your child…

One time the teacher asked for my thoughts on the situation and ways they could help.  I told her I found my son to be uniquely logical (for a two-year-old). How his stubbornness lessened when an adult clearly explained the “why”. In another situation I shared my son’s love language with his teacher. Helping her communicate he is loved which facilitated his willingness to cooperate.

 5. Have hope…

We all grow up. We all change. I’ve seen my boys change dramatically. In my post on MOB Society today (a letter to my son’s preschool teacher) I refer to Quade being chosen to speak in front of a thousand people. Quade, the son who almost was kicked out of mother’s day out when he was 2 years old. There is hope y’all.

Be encouraged. Stay the course. Parent with grace & truth. Pray.

I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to share this video with you. Given the fact that I already had this post written for today, and taking into account the Boston tragedy yesterday…I feel like the Scripture Quade quotes here is appropriate. Once you see Quade walk up to the podium you may need to turn up the volume…such a treasure this boy is to us. (If you are reading this post via email click here to watch the video).

Have you ever struggled with accepting criticism from a child’s teacher? What tips can you share (either from the parent or teacher’s perspective)?


  1. April

    Oh I struggle with this DAILY! Thank you for posting this. My son is 11 now and the last 2 years have been especially hard (even harder than when he was younger in my opinion). You’ve reminded me how I need to handle myself and my own emotions when I’m dealing with him and his issues at school. Thanks!

  2. Sam

    You hit the nail on the head with “Don’t take responsibility for their behavior” and I”ll add “Don’t take their behavior personally.” YOU didn’t hit someone over the head with a truck. YOU didn’t kick a teacher. YOU didn’t do anything wrong. YOU weren’t even there. And YOUR parenting skills didn’t lapse and let them behave poorly at school. It’s not as if we send them to school saying “Go ahead and do whatever you’d like at school…” If it’s a lasting teacher/parent relationship, as opposed to a one-time drop in, share tips with each other. Team with the teacher…let them know essential info relating to behavior. I’ve left pick ups crying and I agree…there is light on the other side of the long lonely tunnel. Hang in there.

  3. Marianne

    Last year in pre-k my boys had troubled days. I have fraternal twin boys who are in separate classrooms. My little guy who is quite and so sweet did not do well in school and by the middle of pre-k his teacher would send home notes everyday more bad than good. However this was a 4 year old who would get in trouble for touching the walls. I thought really but I tried to take the criticism and treat his behavior as real and inappropriate. He knew what he was doing and again he is a little boy who is going to touch walls and such. My other boy who was a challenge at home did not have a challenge in school but when his teacher did call me in to the school she was so surprised that he misbehaved at home because of how good he was in school. What a shock and then this year in Kindergarten my child was not handled well or in a way I thought was appropriate. Aiden the child who continued to get in trouble last year had the first day of school as his only good day according to the teacher. Instead of sending Aiden to someone who could help him with his lessons she would send him to the counselors office to sit all day and color because he called her assistant a “butt head.” I was so upset that we decided to try cyber school. My children are just that children and they will be children because you are right they will grow up and sometimes I think it is the teacher who does not always try to redirect or challenge the boys enough that they expect them to sit still and not misbehave. I used to get upset as well when teachers would call me in but now I just say well that is not good and try to talk to my little boys when we get home.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      It’s just not easy to get 4 year old boys to sit quietly and listen. I think God made them to run & play & explore. Thankful for the teachers some of my boys have had who “get” boys and give them the breaks they need. You are right there are things teachers can do to help boys perform to their greatest potential. Also believe there can be good/bad personality matches with kids and teachers. Ultimately, the goal is for us as parents to work with teachers to help develop the best versions of our children as we can…for God’s glory & purpose. He created each of these boys to serve Him in a unique way and helping cast a vision for your sons, with your teachers, should help everyone get on the same page. Thank you for sharing your story…I’m sure many moms can relate!

  4. Laura

    Oh, Heather…two awesome posts!! I’ve been in those shoes with each of my four boys, even the one who’s now a pastor! Your hints are spot on. That’s speaking from a mom’s perspective AND from a teacher’s perspective. I teach high school, but I’ve had my share of parent conferences and, from both sides of the table, these are great ways to cope.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      thanks soooo much Laura! means a lot coming from you, seriously! Also thankful to hear it’s teacher approved. Definitely do not want to make these posts a parent vs. teacher situation. More of a “check mom’s heart”, get on the same page with teacher, kind of conversation. Glad you agree! 😉

  5. Julie Reynolds

    Yesterday’s post was awesome and now you have done it again!! Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your insight Heather, I pass these on to my daughter who is a young mom. I sure wish there had been wisdom like this available when I was a mom with littles. Such sound, biblical advise. Thank you

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Thanks Julie for your constant encouragement and for sharing this post with others. Praying it will help moms whose hearts break when they hear those first critical words about their son/daughter. You are a treasure!

  6. Jamie

    Love the’ How can I help’ tip….that’s great! And HOPE is a constant theme in my mind with these boys of mine too. Thanks Heather for all your words of wisdom and honesty. And can I say Quade is just delicious…and sounds like a southern preacher already!!! love it:)


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