We have all experienced this hair-raising experience. Our kid comes home from school and complains that a teacher hates her. Maybe your son comes home from sports practice and tells you all the ways that the coach is picking on him. How about this one? Your kid is refusing to go to school or to practice because of the perceived relationship with the teacher or the coach. Look, I'm a clinical psychologist and I've found myself on the verge of calling coaches and/or teachers to let them know in no uncertain terms that they are not to upset my totally perfect,sensitive and innocent child. Thank goodness my wise mind took over before I placed these calls. Heaven knows that I rehearsed a number of one-sided conversations during which I would engage in a lengthy diatribe scolding whoever had hurt the tender feelings of my child. I bet you have too at one time or another;right?
Well, I'm a little bit more mature now and I have some child-rearing experience under my figurative belt. Before you assume that the important adults in your child's life are causing the problems I would like you to reconsider. Keep in mind that not all personalities work well together and yes your child and the specific coach or teacher may in fact not be a fabulous match. Maybe your child is on to something. It may not be the case that the adult in mind hates your kid but there might just be some things your kid can do to improve the relationship.
So before you get on the phone to protect your kids I would like you to consider the following.
Does your child have a tendency to be a little anxious and to perceive rejection where it doesn't necessarily exist? If so, do not invalidate your child's feelings by telling her that she is too sensitive. Instead keep your child's sensitivity in mind when teaching your child to get along with the "difficult" adults in her life. Hey, in life we all have to deal with individuals who are tough and it's important to interact as effectively as we can. The sooner we share these skills with our kids the better off they will be.
Consider teaching the following to your kids:
1. In their lives they will not always find it easy to get along with everyone. This is particularly the case with authority figures in their lives including but not limited to coaches,teachers, bosses, parents etc. Let them know that this is perfectly normal.
2. Teach them to observe the interactions between their peers and some of these people that they find difficult. All too frequently we forget to teach our kids about the importance of good observational skills. By watching their peers they may learn what it takes to get along more easily with others. I still use this technique. If I find myself in a situation with the type of personality that I find difficult I quickly pause and think of how a friend who is good with these sorts of personalities might handle the situation. I try to the best of my ability to use their style and it often works.
3. Teach your kids to focus not only on their feelings but also to their behaviors. I know that this is an unlikely thing for a clinical psychologist to say but I believe that there is a bit too much emphasis on our kids' feelings and not enough focus of the impact of their behavior on others. Perhaps there is something that your child is doing that is contributing to making the relationship stressful. If you become aware of this you can gently and lovingly point this out to your child. You will be doing them a big favor.
4. Model dealing with challenging people with levity, positivity and good intentions. You are you know your child's most important teacher. Yes you are. They will never tell you this but it's true. They are watching you.
5. Impart hope to your kids. Let them know that yes it is possible to relocate challenging relationships into either the neutral or positive zone.
Let's hope that these tips serve your kids well. I can't tell you the delight that I felt when I asked my daughter what she was going to do with a difficult boss and she told me "make them love me mom." Right on!