Everyone has their own unique parenting style. There are Helicopter Parents, Tiger Moms, and Free-Range Families. However, I'm a little concerned about the newest style of parenting I've noticed. Let's just call it "Furious Parenting".
You've no doubt witnessed this parent in your social media feeds. Usually their stories are covered by bloggers using headlines that sound a little something like this: "Her child was sent home from school. When she learned why, she was furious!"
When you read the story you usually learn that her child was sent home for violating the school dress code and was asked to change. Usually there's a picture of a sad child with a cute haircut or outfit that indeed violated the school's dress code. Usually the outraged parent will have a comment along the lines of "I approved this outfit, so why won't the school?" or, "My child looks so cute with his new hairdo! How can being cute be a distraction to learning?"
Now I'm not here to challenge the dress code of any school. I've worked at schools with uniforms where the boys' hair couldn't touch their ears, and I've worked at schools where kids have rainbow hair and wear screen printed tees with suggestive content. Each has its pros and cons.
My problem is with how the parents decided to handle these situations. The child broke the rules. Instead of teaching their child how to follow the rules, or follow the chain-of-command to change the rules, these parents are teaching their children that rules don't need to be followed. They are teaching them the people with authority are not the school administrators, but the person who is willing and able to raise the biggest stink. The person who gets the most likes on social media. The one who gets the most coverage by the local news and online bloggers.
What happens when that child gets older and violates their company's dress code? Do you think getting angry and launching a social media campaign will help them? No. In fact, it's likely to get them fired.
My advice to parents who find themselves "furious" about how their child was wronged:
- Go directly to the source of the problem. If your child got in trouble with a teacher, you don't need to go straight to the principal, superintendent, or school board. If you problem isn't resolved with the teacher, then take it to the next level. But don't just jump straight to the top.
- Listen with an open mind. Don't go in assuming the teacher was wrong. There are two sides to every story. It may be that your child was trying to do the right thing, but missed an important piece of information. Bridging the communication gap in the conflict is far more important than deciding which side was "right".
- Keep your battles off social media. Facebook is a great place to share cat videos and your excitement at getting your latte for half-price. It's not a good place to share a feud. Spectators with little knowledge of the situation are often more than willing to take your side without ever learning what the argument was even about. That's not helpful for anyone.
- Remember, the person you are angry with is still a person. I saw a case where a parent got angry at a teacher and posted something negative on Facebook. Other people got angry on the parent's behalf and started making death threats to the teacher! One person went so far as to share the teacher's home address so that everyone could have a chance to drop by and share their anger in person! Is your squabble really so important that your child's teacher should live in fear of losing her life?
Everyone wants to protect their child from unjust punishment and embarrassment. I understand that. When you child comes home angry or upset, it's impossible not to get involved. But please, before you post that rant or start making accusations, take a deep breath, and run through the four steps above. Instead of being a furious parent, let's all try being compassionate human beings.