Dear Problem Parents: 3 Ways You Sabotage Your Kids

Dear Problem Parents:

I care deeply about kids. As a volunteer who provides an arts education program to children and adults with special needs, I’ve chosen to invest my life in them. Like other teachers, coaches and volunteers, I do my best to make sure every child gets the attention he or she deserves. I’m taking the liberty of using the collective “we,” because I’m fairly confident that others who work with kids will agree with me. We want you to know about three issues you create for us – and by default, your kids.

By no means is this a blanket statement about all parents, nor is it an indictment of parents who raise legitimate concerns or want to share constructive ideas with us.

No, those of you who are Problem Parents are the ones who raise questions but never offer answers. You’re the ones who fixate on the small things so much that you miss the big picture. You’re the ones who think everything is someone else’s fault.

We understand that you probably don’t realize how your well-intentioned actions are actually detrimental to your child. There aren’t many of you Problem Parents but you can be found everywhere. There are one or two of you in every group of kids, from classrooms to ball teams to cheerleading squads. If you’re reading this and feeling defensive right now, then you’re one of them so … you should probably keep reading.

You’re that mom who complains about the classroom teacher to anyone who will listen …
….. but you never think to ask if there’s anything you could do to help him or her.

You’re that dad who rails at the coach at t-ball games
…but you don’t care that the way you act might bother the others on the team and in the stands.

You’re the one who finds fault with everything the scout leader does
…..but you aren’t willing to volunteer for the position yourself.

As summer winds down and you are preparing for the next year of school and extracurricular activities, we thought you should know about how your behavior affects us — and can get in your child’s way.

1. You think yours is the only child who should matter to us.

We know who you are right off the bat, from that first open house or registration … and we tell our co-workers, fellow volunteers or employees about you.

You’re the one who simply must pull us aside the first time we meet so you can tell us about your child, to make sure we understand that your child is different than the rest and to tell us, sometimes directly and sometimes through thinly veiled demands, that you expect us to go out of our way for your kid, even at the expense of other kids.

You have certain expectations of us and how we interact with your child and when we don’t meet those expectations, you are quick to call us on the carpet. Do you know that we wait with dread when class rosters, team assignments and group membership is developed, hoping we don’t get your child on our team or in our troop or in our class? Because word spreads fast about parents like you. Maybe you would be embarrassed if you could be in the teacher’s lounge or the office of the ballpark … if you could hear how many people are saying, “Please don’t put that child in my group … I can’t handle that parent.”

It’s not your child we dread…it’s you.

2. You don’t understand how to tell us what we need to know about your child without also telling us how to do our job.

You know how whenever you want to talk with us we are swamped with paperwork or in a meeting or on a call or heading out the door? Yeah, we’re really not. We just don’t want to talk with you because we know your broken record and we’re tired of listening to it.

Your complaints, your demands, your unsolicited advice on how to run the classroom or the squad or the team … this is what we hear if we give you that quick minute you ask for and we will do anything we can to avoid it. Your negative energy dampens our motivation to cultivate all that is wonderful in your child. It’s you and your treatment of us that is preventing your child from getting what you want – the chance to make the all-star team or get the lead in the play or be featured in that choral concert.

No matter how devoted we are to kids or to our jobs or to our sport or to our art form, you make it impossible for us to see your children as the unique individuals they are because all we see when we look at them is you. If we give your child that break – the one they may need or deserve – it means we will have to interact with you even more and that’s the last thing we want.

Maybe you think we have favorites or teacher’s pets … and we do. They are the children whose parents partner with us. They are the kids whose parents appreciate our efforts, or appropriately tell us how we could improve. Our favorites are the children who may not be the brightest or most talented, but their parents are the ones we all clamor to have on our side.

Our favorites are the children whose parents come to us with legitimate concerns or conflicts or needs that we are happy to meet because they don’t accuse us, they don’t blame us and they don’t irritate the hell out of us by acting like theirs is the only concern that should be important to us. And just to be clear, we quickly recognize those insincere suck-up types. We know which parents think they can curry favor with us by buying us gifts or heaping gushing praise on us and consider them to be Problem Parents too.

3. You don’t realize that we take it personally…because we genuinely care about your child.

When you fixate on that small detail instead of looking at the overall picture, when you complain about things we have no control over, when you blame us for things that just might be your fault – like that email we sent, but you never read – we are truly upset.

We fret, we worry, we drive ourselves crazy trying to find a way to satisfy you … not because we care about you, but because we care about your child. But your persistent negativity eventually wears us down until you finally extinguish our desire to mentor and nurture your child … and we move our attention back to those kids whose parents are our partners, those parents who don’t accuse and point fingers.

We’re telling you this now … because we genuinely care about your child.

We know you want the best for your child. So do we.

Let’s work together to be our best for them.

10 thoughts on “Dear Problem Parents: 3 Ways You Sabotage Your Kids

  1. As a retired teacher, I can sing a loud AMEN to this blog! It truly takes a village to raise any child, but a kind and supportive, cooperative village is nicer to work with and gets more accomplished. Thank you, Debra, for this timely reminder. I hope the “right parents” read it and take it to heart.

  2. This should be framed. I taught pre-school for 34 years, was a dance Mom (no , not that kind) for 14, and have taught Sunday School, swim lessons, etc. for many years. You nailed this right on the head. I once had an interesting experience at the dance studio. I was a supportive dance Mom. One time I asked the front desk person To to tell the owner that I would like to talk to her. I had always gotten a quick response, so when two days passed,i asked again. That evening the owner came out to talk to me and apologized. There were 2 Moms with the same last name, Since she had been told that the parent seemed upset, it had been assumed that it was not me, but the other parent. Once that was cleared up, immediate attention was given to my concerns, and together we were able to work out the issue. We both had a good laugh, also.

  3. Thank you for reading and commenting, Beth! And thanks for your years of service to kids…I’m sure you put up with your share of Problem Parents over the years. The case of mistaken identity is hilarious…I’m sure this has happened to lots of teachers who dread hearing from “those parents.”

  4. I believe that living in the role of a 24/7 parent/advocate for a child with special needs puts every parent in a position that makes us seem to be a “problem parent” from time to time, even if we aren’t that way all the time. I hope that I am not one all the time, and I wish I didn’t have a clue how to get tagged as one. Also, I hope that I am not “a big one”, to the point of having a blog directed at me, and in total denial about it.

    There have been many instances over the course of the past 14 years when I have had to “show my —“, after much begging, groveling, tears and frustration for my child to get what I felt she needed, and I’m sure somewhere along the line folks have slapped that “Problem Parent” label on me. But on the flip side I was a Girl Scout leader for 5 years, chaperoned every school field trip for many years and continue to try to help out whenever resources and time permit. Many of us parents, like you, wear lots of hats. We are stressed and busy too. Sometimes we are misunderstood. Sometimes we just push too hard for what we perceive our children’s best interests to be, but in my case it’s hardly ever personally directed toward those people who are providing care, education, instruction, recreation etc…rather it is intended to address policies, procedures, rules etc that might need to be adapted to unique circumstances on a case by case basis. Again, I can really only speak for myself. I really try to always make a point of being gracious and thankful to those who go out their way to provide opportunities for my child. (I hope that it is not perceived as “kissing up”.) I may not always be successful, so if I have ever personally offended anyone, I apologize from the bottom of my heart, and promise that it was never my intent to do so.

    I hope that when those who teach, mentor and provide services encounter a parent that you perceive to be a problem, you take the time to sit them down, face to face, and let them know what it is that you perceive. Let them know how they are making you feel and try to “head things off at the pass”. Communicate honestly and openly so that, maybe, if they are clueless,( like I am most times), they can try to adjust their behaviors and get on board with you to make the very best experience possible for their child. Give them a chance to change your perception. Chances are, such a meeting will identify a simple misunderstanding and hurt feelings on both sides can be mended early on. Don’t let it go so long that you hate to see that parent coming, and you are running for cover when you do.

    I’m not sure about all the other parents out there, but I know that I would not be offended or hurt, but rather, I would appreciate the candid honesty of being “called out” in such a case. We are all on the same team and it’s up to every individual to be the best team player that we can be for the sake of our children.

  5. Cindy, you are not Problem Parent!!! You are an example of one of the good kind…the ones who work with us and not against us! This post was not directed at any one parent but was a global comment about how some parents choose to behave. You’re correct that when I encounter those Problem Parents, I should probably try to point out how they could better advocate for their child…the problem with Problem Parents is that they never seem interested in hearing what they could do to improve and are only interested in pointing out how everything is someone else’s fault. Parents of kids with special needs MUST be an advocate for their child and I applaud you for all the ways you have nurtured Abbey and advocated on her behalf. You’ve done a great job…look at the results in your amazing daughter! I’m lucky that we have hundreds of wonderful parent advocates in our program…but like I said, there are one or two Problem Parents in every bunch. You, my friend, are not one!

  6. I am a parent now, but I can still remember who “those parents” were when I was a child. I always felt sorry for their children and thankful they were not mine.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Jennifer! It’s sad when parents get in their kids way, isn’t it? You are a rock star of mommies and I love following you Facebook posts!

  7. So very very true – we are huge believers in working closely with my son’s teachers and therapists, and, because of that relationship, have learned so much from them. Even now, during summer break, I feel that I could email them with any questions or concerns that we have and that they’d have an honest and open conversation with me. In fact, we’ve seen all of them at various dinners and parties over the past two years because they’re awesome people and we truly love and respect them.
    I love this post and am so glad you wrote it. Every parent should read it!

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