Who would do this to a child? That’s a good question. It’s easy for us to make judgments. We, as teachers have seen our share of crazy parenting. The mom who says harsh, demeaning things to her kids, the dad who overreacts and becomes defensive, or the grandparent who seems to have zero control and zero concern. After a conference with one of them what is our first inclination? Do we hurry to the teacher’s lounge or office to tell others about the craziness? Do we look at them with a critical eye thinking of all the things they are doing wrong and all the things they should be doing differently? Do we throw our hands in the air and just give up completely; telling ourselves that we will never, ever contact them again? I’ve been there. I’ve done all three. I’ve been wrong every time.
Gossiping, being judgmental and giving up never got me anywhere. So what’s a teacher (or anyone else for that matter) to do? The answer is a simple one, but not an easy one. The answer is compassion. Show compassion when you want to rant to a co-worker. Show compassion when you want to judge. Show compassion when it would be easier to just wash your hands of the whole situation. Show compassion.
But you don’t know this parent. She’s a lunatic. Her student is out of control. This whole situation is a mess and you just can’t reason with her.
I’ve learned a few things that have helped me in this area:
- We have no idea what it’s like to live her life. It’s been my experience that most people fight battles that the rest of us know nothing about. Maybe that parent has recently lost someone or is struggling financially or just found out some devastating news. It could be that she is just trying to make it through the day.
- People are influenced by their upbringing. Could it be that she treats her children the same way her parents treated her? Maybe she doesn’t know what it means to nurture and encourage because she has never experienced it. Imagine never being encouraged to do your best or urged to try something new. Could you have gotten where you are today without a helping hand teaching you or cheering you on?
- Everyone is at a different place in the journey. What I learned at 25 my sister had already successfully tackled at 18. Am I a slow learner? Probably, but that’s not my point. People are different. I mentioned in an earlier post that we just don’t know what our student’s best is going to look like day to day if life at home is hard. A parent is no different. Life can be tough and when we come in contact with the parent that we just can’t seem to get a handle on we would do well to remind ourselves: I only have to deal with the craziness for a short time, but they are taking it with them wherever they go.
So how does compassion play into all this? Compassion comes alongside that hard to handle parent. Compassion stays away from condemning and judgmental language and instead offers kindness and help. Grace comes into play as well. After a parent has insulted or offended, grace is hard to extend, however, we need to remember that grace is a gift and we aren’t waiting for someone to deserve it. On the contrary, the ones who need it the most are the ones who would come in last in the “deserve” category – I know from experience, I’m constantly at the end of that line!
I’ve never met any of my daughters’ biological parents. I don’t know what they were like, but my children have deep scars from their poor choices. In the beginning it was easy to judge and criticize them for where their lives had taken them. But one day God dealt with my critical attitude. Who was I to sit in judgment? Yes, they had made terrible decisions that hurt their children, my children, vey deeply, but what had led them to it? Placing blame is an easy way out. Showing compassion and seeking to understand is a lot more difficult. If given the exact same set of circumstances (upbringing, environment, influences, addictions, etc.) would I have been able to do any better? There is no way to know. I have just chosen to stick with compassion in this area. I don’t know what was driving them, but I do know that it costs them their beautiful children. I choose to show compassion because I can’t imagine living with that for even a minute, let alone the rest of my life.
I’ve seen a few crazy parents in my time. I handled some better than others, but each time it came down to my level of compassion. Those whom I sought to understand and work with produced a much better outcome than those I was short and uncaring toward. Give them the benefit of the doubt and see what happens. Maybe you’ve caught them on a bad day, maybe that’s just who they are and how they behave, either way, you will walk away feeling much better about the whole situation, even an unresolved one, if you’ve done your best to show compassion.