John Cowan: Parents using lawyers to attack schools

Before parents call their lawyers to battle a school, they should think about how that intervention will impact their kids. If it is a battle against a genuine injustice then fair enough. Children, no less than adults are entitled to fair treatment. The argument that “life isn’t fair and they need to learn that” in no way justifies unprofessional behaviour from those we entrust our children to. I believe (or rather I hope) this is very rare, but if it happens, we shouldn’t roll over and accept a raw deal for our kids. By all means protect your children from injustice but there are two things you should allow your children to be exposed to – disappointment, and the consequences of their poor decisions.

Firstly, disappointment. Not every child makes it into the First XV or the school play. That’s tough but that’s life. Your child’s success in life will depend far more on their character and resilience than it will on a flash record of achievement from school. If our kids need to repeat a year at school, or sit half a game on the sideline, or sing in the chorus instead of being a main star in the show, then of course you sympathise with their pain, then coach them to make the most of that experience, to lift their game so they can get to where they want to be. If there is a motto for success it would be, “Do the hard thing” – precious little hot house flowers whose parents have robbed them of the experience of coping with disappointment are going to have a tough time in life. Secondly, rescuing children from experiencing the consequence of their dumb decisions and mischief is absolutely the best way to set your children up for an unhappy life. One of the worst things that can happen to your child is for them to get into a lot of trouble, but one of the best things that can happen is for them to get into a little bit of trouble. Sometimes a fright or a penalty, from school, the police, or a parent, is just the jolt some kids need to get back on track. Headlines tell us about recidivist young criminals, but the vast majority of young people who get handled by the youth justice system do not reappear before the courts. In my experience, teachers are parents’ best allies in sorting problems with children. I doubt if many teachers are in the job for the money, the glamour or the fast cars. Most of them actually like kids and want to help them. They also have experience, training and spend hours and hours with our children. Most times their perspective on a situation will be spot on but if it is not, they or their school will be open to hear your perspective. That’s most of the time – but sometimes we do have to go into bat for our kids. I wish you good luck… or a good lawyer.

John Cowan discusses the issue on Breakfast

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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