Parenting Like a Principal

Today

, as I sat with a child in my office, one of the most fascinating discussions of my entire career began to ensue. Mind you, this particular student wasn’t kicked out of class, or called in for cutting. As a matter of fact, he’s not even enrolled in our high school.

This was my 5th grade son, affectionately referred to on Twitter as “EmerKid2.”

A little backdrop: Our son has recently been struggling with bringing home all of his homework materials. Today, yet again, he forgot an important textbook that he urgently needed for a pressing assignment. My wife was taking our kids out to dinner at a local restaurant as a special treat, and we agreed that it didn’t feel appropriate to include our 5th grader buy online propecia in this reward on the heels of this repeated offense.

Instead of enjoying a night on the town, EmerKid2 came to sit in my office and reflect on his behavior. When he arrived at our campus, he was visibly upset about missing the special dinner. I led him to my office and gave him a seat, and then left for a few minutes to go take care of some other matters.

When I returned, EmerKid2 was in much better spirits (coincidentally, my candy bowl was suddenly much emptier than it had been a few minutes prior). My son had taken out his Geronimo Stilton book, and was happily eating Mike & Ike’s while poring over the pages.

I sat down in my chair and looked across my desk at the young charge in front of me. He looked back at me.
And then something wild happened.

We had a conversation.

Not a lecture. No yelling, pleading, or cajoling. Just a calm, respectful, mature give and take. I asked questions. I listened to EmerKid2’s answers.  It took me a few minutes, but then it hit me. I was Cheap canadian propecia having a administrator-student conversation, but with my own son. Somehow, sitting my office, my Assistant Principal instinct took over, and our conversation followed a template that I had been through thousands of times with my students.

And it was working!

I learned about the specific circumstances of his class schedule that were making it difficult for him to remember to pack his books in his bag. I learned a little more about which teachers assigned homework for which days. Armed with that information, we came up with some action items (I actually taught him what an “action item” is!) for what he can do to combat the issue of forgetting his materials. We also came up with an incentive plan that would reward him with a trip to Dunkin Donuts upon bringing home his work material for a week straight. It was clear to me that being in my office had strongly impacted the manner in which I guided the conversation (the candy didn’t hurt either). I was approaching my son as I approach my students.

Now don’t get me wrong. I work very hard to maintain loving and respectful relationships with my kids at home as well, and we’ve had positive conversations before. But I’ve also gotten extremely frustrated with my children, and I’ve even yelled at them.  I do think that there is an added degree of tension when it is your kid, that sometimes causes me as a parent to become overly emotional. Perhaps it’s the natural parental instinct to protect your children from harm. When it’s your own child that is doing something wrong, something clicks in the parent’s brain that gets our blood racing, and at times causes our first response to come out heavy handed, even if stemming Chip cialis from a place of love. When the discussion is with a student, as close as I may be with him, there is a natural separation, which allows for less negative emotion to seep into the conversation.

I came away from this experience with a firm resolve to bring more of the strategies that I have employed with my students into my home. Things like really listening, asking lots of questions, and trying to keep out negative emotion. It seems that the setting of the conversation is quite important as well. My esteemed colleague and friend Rabbi Elly Storch suggested that I designate a room in our home as the “conference room,” a quiet and separate place to have these sorts of conversations in. I agree wholeheartedly, especially in a home like ours with 4 awesome (loud) boys, and a baby sister who is learning to follow in cheap celebrex their footsteps.

There will also be a good amount of candy ;)

2 comments for “Parenting Like a Principal

  1. Chris
    December 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Hi, I wonder how much your role as a school administrator influences your need for perfection from your children. If your children are not performing, how can you expect other children and their families to conform to the demands of your school? That is a very stressful place to be as a parent and an administrator. I feel for you.

    As for a 5th grader and homework. I am of the ilk that believe 5th grade should be the very beginning of the homework experience. I know I am out of fashion in believing that a child’s homework should be play. My understanding of a child’s development includes a constant layering of adult, upper middle class expectations for responsibility that are not exactly in line with a child’s understanding of the world. Over time the child gives into the conditioning imposed on him by adults around him. You understood the situation as you described it. I know from you sense of duty that you know your son too. From afar, I would cautiously counsel continued understanding of your boy in relation to the constructed values of the culture in which you live, work and play.

  2. December 31, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Hi Dov,

    I enjoyed your post. Your approach of working with your son to understand the problem is a great idea. Helping students (or anyone else for that matter) discover barriers to success and develop ways to remove them or work around them will help them apply problem solving skills to future situations. I also agree with the importance of listening, asking questions, and keeping negative emotions out of the conversation. Keeping the conversation focused on the problem rather than the person is helpful. You also mentioned that the two of you created an incentive plan.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about a couple things. Obviously, I am ignorant to much of the backstory, your relationship with your son, and countless other things, but I wonder if he would have been successful without the reward. Also, if you want to help your son develop intrinsic motivation and meaning for being responsible and organized, is it possible that these two different approaches to helping your son (understanding the problem then developing “action items” and incentivizing improvement) actually work against each other?

    Thanks,

    Jake

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