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August 13, 2008

“Help! I have an extremely difficult child with a “helicopter” mom in my class. What should I do?”

“Help! I have an extremely difficult child with a “helicopter” mom in my class. What should I do?”

Difficult Child + Helicopter Mom - What to do! Teacher Tips, kindergarten, tk, primary ed, classroom managment

This is a response that I posted on to a question about a problem with a very difficult child, and a “helicopter mom.” In this case, a “Helicopter Mom” is a facetious name for a mother that hovers over her child constantly, rarely ever asking the child to take any responsibility for his or her actions. Although this entry applies to the teacher’s situation specifically, I thought that it might be helpful to post it here, since I am sure that many of us have found ourselves in similar situations. Here it is!

“I have a very difficult child that seems to always be instigating one kind of issue or another, with pushing, shoving, fighting, name calling, etc.  This is hard enough to deal with, but her mother is always there after school, insisting that her child didn’t do any of these things and that I must be picking on her.  She wants me to soothe her child when she is upset by “holding and rocking her!”  This is KINDERGARTEN- I can’t do that!  I’m at a loss for what to do.  HELP!”

—One thing that I think is important in dealing with a situation like this is try to get that mom on your side somehow. It might be worth a home visit to see the child and the mom interact at home. Let the mom know that since she knows her child best, you are going to be looking to her to show you how to best teach her daughter the behavior that will be expected throughout her school career. I think that I would tell her what you need very specifically, like cooperation during activities, and her best effort given every time she tries something. You need her to sit quietly in a group and listen with the other children. How would her mom help her to learn that?

—I think that it helps sometimes for parents to realize that some of the techniques that they use at home (like babying to calm) may not be appropriate in a school setting. Just leading the parent through the typical school day scenario, and having her describe how she would get her child to comply can be very revealing to the parent. She can then realize that her suggestions to calm the child down (like holding and rocking her) are not appropriate for a teacher/child relationship in most cases. After that, maybe she will be “on board” with you in helping her daughter to acquire some more appropriate behaviors. To me, having that parent support you in how you deal with their child means so much!

—  Her mom may very well say that her daughter will NEVER do those things that you are asking! If so, then at least you can prepare yourself for that, and consider a plan of ignoring as much of those behaviors as possible. Use that taped-off square and let her have her fit until she is tired of it. If it fails to get her whatever it is she is seeking, she may just stop.

— I had a handicapped boy in my class one year who screamed non-stop for the first two weeks. (Of course, he was unidentified in his special needs at that point. It didn’t take me long to figure it out; but it took a whole year to get an official diagnosis and placement.) Anyway, after two weeks, he finally looked up and noticed that we were singing and dancing. He was interested, and wanted to join in! Yeah! It was the music in the end that won him over. His movements never matched ours, and he never could say all of the words, but he did finally learn all of the Zoo-Phonics sounds that he was able to make, 0-11, the shapes, most of the letter names, and about five sight words! He never was able to write his name recognizably, though. He was moved the following year to a special day class. My point, though, is that even though he couldn’t communicate much in Spanish or English, music transcended through and he bought into the idea of being in school due to the music. Use any music that you and your kids enjoy, and see if you can get the little girl to LOVE school! Once she loves school (and you!) you will have a much better chance of getting her to comply and cooperate, I think.”



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