Parents – trust your instincts
It’s the end of another term and with that comes the report from school. Now, as parents, you have to read what one or more other human beings think of your child. This can be a pleasure but can also cause confusion and even concern. How seriously should you take the schools’ verdict on your child’s performance, behaviour, growing personality and abilities?
Obviously teachers are trained professionals and can be very helpful in identifying areas needing help or areas of great potential. But as a parent, you are equipped with knowledge and understanding of your child that no other person can hope to equal. For this reason, my message today is that you should learn to trust in your ‘gut feelings’ concerning your child – especially if they conflict with the opinions of others.
Over many years of dealing with families whose children show one or other need, I’ve come to value the opinions of parents. Very often conversations with them are prefaced with “I’m only his/her parent so I’m probably wrong, but ……”. Then the parent goes on to present me with a description of the child that, after thorough evaluation, is found to be highly accurate and insightful, but sometimes contradicts the teacher’s findings.
I’ve known many parents who instinctively felt that their child wasn’t really ready to learn, yet felt intimidated enough by officialdom to send them into formal schooling. Sometime down the line, they are referred for help with problems caused not by any lack of intelligence but instead a slower rate of neurodevelopment. Others may instinctively know that their young child is ready for school but are told to keep them back. These children may end up being frustrated and bored at school and have to possibly take the unwise step in being accelerated into a higher grade somewhere along the line.
This doesn’t mean that parents don’t ever make mistakes. Plenty of parents are guilty of pushing their children too fast and too far before they are ready; they are over-ambitious for children to succeed; some neglect children unintentionally due to work and lifestyle pressures, some refuse to recognise a needy area in the child, and so on. That, however, is not the message intended here.
I could write screeds about the occasions when parents were spot on in their analysis of the causes of their child’s behaviour, in contrast with that of the school. I recall a parent desperately sharing her feeling that her young son’s undesirable, hyperactive, non-compliant behaviour during the Grade 0 school day was due to his disinterest in classroom events. This was not accepted by the teacher, who saw the symptoms as being signs of anti-social tendencies, mental disorders, impulsivity, disobedience and more. The mother persevered with her belief and did not seek any intervention. The following year saw a drastic change in behaviour and when challenged, the youngster offered, “School is better now. We’re learning proper stuff.”
Something else to be taken into consideration is that what you want to teach your child is not necessarily what others want to teach theirs. What your child needs to be taught depends on the society into which he is being raised and in which he will have to cope. That means that others may not understand the culture of your family and have unrealistic expectations of your child – and your way of raising him.
When you feel that something is not right with your child, with the school situation, with health issues, with friendships, you don’t need to apologise for being ‘only’ a parent. You don’t always need to rush off for professional confirmation or intervention. It is helpful to have an impartial outsider confirm your beliefs and in some cases might be wise, but this isn’t always essential. The chances are that you’ll have your child’s best interests at heart and your decisions and actions will be based on the most intimate and complete knowledge of the child possible. Added to that, you know the child’s origins – you understand the gene pool that created him or her. Trust your feelings.