There are three instructional morals to this story, the first of which being that Eric solved his English problem because he believed me. In the absence of at least a B in English, he absolutely knew that he would spend all of his free time in his room for nine weeks and go to bed, lights out, at seven.
Eric knew that threats were not part of my parenting vocabulary. Can you say the same of your kids?
The second moral is that big problems require even bigger consequences. Most parents, I have discovered, try too hard to make sure punishments “fit” crimes. In the process, they end up doing nothing of consequence. A child misbehaves in some egregious fashion and parents respond with a light tap to the wrist with a flyswatter. “Take that,” they cry, and nothing changes. I was determined that this would be the first and last time I would have to deal with an issue of this sort, and it was.
The third moral is that children do not make good witnesses, especially when they have emotional skin in the game. Specifically, when children complain about teachers, their complaints are generally not truthful. I don’t mean that they are necessarily lying. They aren’t telling the truth because they cannot see it. The ability to accept full responsibility for one’s misdeeds separates the men from the boys, which is why a good number of “men” (including a good number of women) are still “boys.”
The bottom line: As this new school year begins, it would be a generally good thing if parents resolved to always give a teacher’s report the benefit of doubt where school problems are concerned. Children benefit considerably when adults stand together.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions at rosemond.com.