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Ages & Stages

Dealing with Problems at School: How to Talk With Your Child's Teacher

​​​At some point during your child's school years, their teacher may ask you to come to school to discuss a specific concern or issue. If this happens, schedule the meeting as soon as possible, since most problems are best dealt with early.

During this parent-teacher meeting, some parents feel they are on the defensive and are unsure how to react. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  1. Don't feel threatened. The development of most children is uneven, and there is often one area of a child's performance that could use improvement. Withhold judgment and listen carefully to what the teacher has to say.

  2. Ask for specifics about what's happening. For instance: "Could you give me an example of what is taking place? How often is this happening? How do the teacher and the other students respond to this particular behavior? Is this an isolated episode or a pattern of behavior?"

  3. Be open to the idea that situations within your family might be contributing to your child's difficulties. Share them as you deem appropriate (such as a recent job loss or death in the family).

  4. As you discuss the problem and possible solutions, approach the situation as a partnership. Look for ways to work together and improve the situation.

  5. If the problem is relatively uncomplicated, you and the teacher may decide during your conversation what action needs to be taken.

  6. Before the meeting ends, determine how and when you will follow up with each other to evaluate the success of the interventions and the progress of your child. What are the things you will be looking for to judge their progress (for instance, misbehaving less in class)? And how will this progress be communicated to you?

  7. If you feel that the opinion of another professional would be helpful in evaluating the problem or suggesting possible solutions, speak with the principal or another member of the support staff (counselor, nurse, psychologist). This can be with or without the teacher present. You also might decide to seek out an independent opinion from someone outside the school system. Ask your pediatrician for their opinion or for a referral.

More information

Last Updated
Adapted from Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12, 3rd edition (Copyright © 2018 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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