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“My child says her teacher is mean. Is she telling the truth?”

Is it the teacher, or your child? This holiday break is the perfect time to figure out why your child isn't enjoying school.

With school holidays in full swing, dealing with school concerns from your child may be far from your mind. But now is actually the perfect time to have a heart-to-heart with your child and find out if he or she has any concerns about returning back to school.

We are certainly living in scary times and the thought of your child returning to school at the end of the month might be daunting. Because Covid-19 has been top of mind for so many parents, we may not be considering other pressing issues your child may be experiencing at school.

This break is a great opportunity for parents to chat with their children and find out if there is anything concerning you should be aware of.

My child says his teacher is bullying him

It is sometimes difficult for parents to discern between a child’s imagination and the truth, especially if the stories are based on reality.

A parent recently asked for advice from other parents on Facebook regarding a challenge she is having with his child in grade 1.

The post read: “My daughter is in grade 1 and she recently complained to my mom about the Afrikaans teacher who beat her and she pulled her ears and she said she no longer wants to go to school, she would rather go to creche. What can I do in this situation?”

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jenny Rose says it’s normal for kids to make things up. As kids grow, so does their imagination. It’s a way for them to learn and navigate life and growing up. Dr. Jenny notes, however, that “there is always a significance in what a child says.”

If your 6-year-old suddenly comes home complaining about a teacher who is mistreating them, even if it’s a made-up story, it is something to explore. The child told her grandmother that she wants to go back to creche, which is a red flag on its own. Whether or not the teacher is pulling her ears, the bottom line is important. The child is definitely not having a good experience at school. It’s so drastic that he does not want to go back.

Dr. Jenny advises that parents should explore the story. Exploring it means you need to have a conversation with your child to hear their full story. The school teacher or headmaster needs to be involved regardless. So you need to book an appointment with your child’s teacher via e-mail, or telephonically before school resumes. “It is better to be over-cautious than regret not exploring the problem later,” Dr. Jenny says.

A parent needs to take the issue up with the school, in a non-accusatory manner. The bottom line is important, and your child’s discomfort with school needs to be explored. He could be struggling to adapt to a school environment, with friends, or the teacher could really be giving your child a tough time.

Reporting the issue formally

In the group, some parents recommended that he must report the teacher to the South African Council of Educators (SACE). The SACE deals with Code of Ethics issues relating to teachers, so would be the perfect organisation to approach such issues with.

Some argued that going to the SACE might be extreme when “you don’t know the other half of the story.”

One mom shared her experience with a similar situation. “My daughter made me look like a lunatic in February 2021. She lied that her teacher was beating her and she convinced us. I went marching to the school demanding an explanation as a woke parent. When dealing with 5,6 and 7-year-olds, it’s better to adopt a calm attitude when approaching the matter.”

She explored the matter regardless, just to find the invalidity of her daughter’s story. The lie had a source somehow, and adopting an attitude of curiosity is going to be the difference between marching to the school in aggression, or dismissing it as a lie.

You know your child best and would have to deal with the situation at your discretion. Dismissing it as a lie though is not an advisable course of action.  

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