One More Step Forward

Last week I got so upset at a friend of mine that I was forced to get up in a packed restaurant and walk out as to prevent from having a full blow public meltdown:  The kind of meltdown that is NOT a tantrum, but a GIANT emotional response to my feelings of being hurt, judged, misunderstood and totally overwhelmed at the injustice of it all. 

I’ve lost it before.  Primarily in doctors’ offices when advocating for my kid(s) was being completely missed and my impulse to protect and defend my boys was pushed to the limit.  Then, I am happy to speak my mind.  Which is usually met with less than the best of results.  :-/

This time the boys weren’t with me.  This time it was just one adult, who for all practical purposes meant well (don’t they always?) and was attempting to make a point – just as I was doing.

The difference is that my boys and I do not live in the philosophical world that non-special needs parents often do.  We do not have the luxury of philosophical debate.  We do not live in the land of ‘ideal’ and the place of judgment so many parents who simply have not been down this road do.  I live my life. Not someone else’s.  Not even the one I thought I would have.  But the one I actually do have.

Now you’re wondering what the issue was, right?

What started out as a friendly discussion about whether or not to medicate children turned into war when I was challenged with the blind statement that children don’t need medication, including my son – who has Pediatric Bipolar Disorder I.  The justification for the blanket statement relied on my friend’s personal experience with a family member’s children (nieces/nephews).  The argument was that we as a society over-diagnose and over-medicate our kids, and yet that isn’t an issue other countries, but rather something associated with the US. 

I wasn’t going to argue that.  Whether or not we over-diagnose, over-medicate, or have lazy parents who want a ‘pill’ to solve their children’s problems here in the US (or abroad) is not something I’m interested in debating.  Mostly because quite simply it has no impact on whether or not *my* child needs medication.

Parent Teacher Meeting Tips

A friend of mine with a child that is undiagnosed - but clearly has OCD/ADD tendencies - is attending his first parent teacher meeting today.  His son is in the 9th grade, and let's just say his grades were well below average last semester.  Hence, the meeting was called. My friend was looking for a bit of a 'road map' on how to proceed.  So, I wrote out my advice.

Since I am guessing he isn't the only one out of all of us to attend a 'your child's grades suck' meeting, I thought I would publish it here to see if any of you are interested! :)


No need to stress about the school meeting - even if you hear tons of stuff you don't want to hear, it will allow you to help your child succeed - and THAT will make the meeting a success no matter what.

Try to ...

  • TAKE NOTES - really good comprehensive notes 
  • Note all of the people present - their names and position - write them down so you remember!!
  • Having the school counselor, psychologist or resource room teacher there would be a good thing (not necessary to ask for them, but indicative of their view of the situation if they show up)
  • Ask lots of questions - Gather information - What do you think the problem is?  What is bringing down his grade the most?  Do you think he understands the curriculum?  Is he testing well? Are there outstanding assignments? Is he engaged in classroom discussion? What are my child's strengths in your class?  What are his weaknesses?  
  • Treat the teachers like experts on your child (they are)
  • Ask the teacher(s) for solution(s) - What does my child need to do to get a better grade in your class?  
  • Refrain from offering solutions yourself - instead ask things like - How can I help my succeed in your class? What things outside of the classroom might he benefit from?  Study club?  Peer tutor?
  • Set up a time to revisit this issue in a month in person and ask to be kept informed via email
  • Be sure to leave the meeting with a 'team' feeling - they should see you as a resource, not a parent who expects his child to overachieve.
Try to avoid ...

  • Blaming the teacher (My child says you just don't like athletes - or - It seems that you aren't being fair to my child)
  • Being defensive - if the teacher says your child is acting over social in class, or not paying attention, or whatever, just take the information and attempt NOT to get defensive.  

Misconceptions ....

Parents often go into these kinds of meetings thinking the meeting is the 'solution' or the 'answer' and that somehow magically when they leave, all will be good.  That NEVER happens.  

The meeting isn't the solution, but hopefully you will leave it with more information than you currently have which will allow you, and your child to come up with a plan to succeed, which is the solution.  If your child isn't on-board with the plan, it won't work, so you need to set a time to talk about what the teachers said, get your child's take on it, and decide how you two as a team are going to address the issues.  

Clearly state expectations ...

I encourage you to tell your child at that time what your expectations are.  Set the expectation for good grades, help him achieve it (this is the parenting part) and offer an incentive if it is achieved to show how his hard work (school is his job) pays off.  Example would be, "I expect your grades to be a 3.0 or better - that is a B average. You need to earn a 3.0 this semester in order to play football next fall, as grades come first and I need to know you can balance your class schedule with sports.  Also, you must continue to maintain it for the next two semesters in order for me to pay for you to take Driver's Training when you turn 16 ($800).  I want to help you accomplish this, so the best way for that to happen is for you to be honest with me when you have a problem in a class.  Just let me know how I can help you and I will."  

Obviously this is just my way of doing things.  

I hope I've helped....