The Violent Parent
One in three principals have been
assaulted. This is being reported today on the ABC. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-27/school-principals-attacked-by-students,-parents-says-acu-report/10850336
This is an unacceptable but sadly a growing
trend over recent years. The reasons for this are many and varied and it would
take a huge volume of research to fully reveal the causes of this rise. Here is
what I think needs to be looked at closely:
- “My child doesn’t lie” is a
belief that many parents have. The reality is that we all either lie or at
least tell things in a way that puts us in a favourable light. Children are very good at
this. In my experience, most issues parents have with a school are because
their child has either lied, omitted information or exaggerated things. Parents
need to understand that all children do this to some extent and start by trying
to understand what actually occurred instead of taking their own child’s story
as being 100% accurate.
- There is a growing trend with
the current generation of parents to be hyper-defensive of their child. Being a
good parent has come under the spotlight in the past decade and parents are now
feeling social pressure to be a good parent. A very visible way of doing this
is to react when a perceived injustice has occurred.
- Parents are sometimes poorly
educated themselves or have a negative attitude towards schools or teachers
from their own schooldays, and feel out of their depth when addressing an issue
at school. One way to cover this feeling of inadequacy is to be verbally and
- Social media has a lot to
answer for. In group chats and forums, people freely vilify others with scant
evidence. The actions they freely promote are violent and aggressive. If a
parent has posted an issue with a school, social media will often promote an
unrealistically extreme response.
- Reality television has a lot to
answer for. The producers know that making a reality television show popular
means they must go beyond the bounds of what are social norms and introduce
more extreme behaviours. This is gets people watching.
Being confrontational, argumentative and openly hostile are promoted in
these shows and the shows’ advertising.
Research has demonstrated how powerful television dramas and reality shows are
in providing a model of what acceptable behaviour
is. The model reality television thrusts in front of today’s families is one
that is saying you need to openly confront and be hostile.
- Schools are also part of the
problem. School structures and procedures are often poorly thought out and
advertised so parents don’t have a clear and satisfactory process to follow. If
a parent has a grievance that they consider to be urgent and important, there
needs to be a clearly defined way that this can be addressed. The parent should
never be in a position of feeling that they need to walk in to the school and
simply confront a teacher or principal.
Some schools will have procedures for this, but they often still lack some
simple steps in the process which are vital to calming a situation down:
- Whenever there is a potentially
explosive issue, the school needs to insist that the parent have an advocate
there with them. This provides a third calming voice to interpret and reason.
If the parent has no advocate, the school should have some volunteers to call
on who can help. Before the meeting, the advocate should sit with the parent to
listen to their side of the story.
- Parents need to feel that their
issue is being addressed. I have not come across many schools that actively
follow up parents after an issue has been raised to see that things have been
resolved. This preemptive action goes a long way to making sure an issue does
- Whenever there is a potentially
- Governments and education
departments also must rethink things. Parents find it difficult to resolve
issues where a principal seems to be making a poor decision. The steps for this
are obscure and difficult for parents to navigate. Given that they have tried
to address an issue already and feel they have received no satisfactory
response, it is not surprising that parents feel that assault is the only
option open to them.
Do you have thoughts on this? Please add
your comments, but do not name any individuals or schools.