Last month I was a speaker for a group of school administrators. During one of the conflict management workshops we had a heated discussion about disciplining students. It turns out the root of the conflict wasn't the student at all, instead it was his overbearing mother.
The scenario went like this...
When a child is caught swearing in the playground, the principle calls the students mother to report what happened. He explained that as a standard form of discipline the child will have to eat lunch alone in the classroom for a couple of days. The overbearing mother is livid, refusing to allow the school to discipline her child. She insists on picking her daughter up for lunch for the next few days ;essentially rewarding her daughters behavior.
How should the leadership manage this conflict? In the workshop we discussed how conflict comes wrapped up in many issues, so we have to break apart the dilemma to analyze the best recourse.
Issues at the root of this conflict are...
The Mother is overstepping her boundaries at school and suggesting her child does not have to follow the rules.
The School is required to adhere to certain standard forms of discipline
The swearing and bad behavior will continue or flourish if the child is rewarded
While speaking for the school administrators, we decided the best recourse is to involve the mother and partner with her for the childs best interest. The school administrators and leadership must Stand as a unified front supporting their policies and working with parents to understand, comply and reinforce these rules.
It is only by Sorting through the issues can the principle communicate his concerns and stop a nasty pattern of noncompliance from forming.
Once the principle has the courage to confront the overbearing mother, he has to empathetically relate to her what the issues are and how together they can help her child be respectful on the playground.
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