father and son (Peter Fragola)
It’s Who’s The Daddy time and for this latest guest post, I’m honoured to introduce the brilliant Peter Fragola from Chronicles of a New Dad.

As well as blogging, Peter is the Assistant Principal at an Elementary School (aged 3-10) in the US. In this post he shares his experience of how becoming a parent himself has turned him into…that parent.

Over to Peter…

‘That Parent’ by Peter Fragola of Chronicles of a New Dad.

The phone rings and it’s a parent… I am the elementary school administrator on the other end. The parent is upset because their child was hurt by another child. He was bit twice, one of which left a good size mark. They are concerned. I try to help them understand that these things happen and that developmentally, children when frustrated lash out as they do not have the skills to communicate with each other like adults do.

This is in no way an abnormal interaction between a parent and administration in an elementary school. Parents are protective of their children and they absolutely should be. When they send their children off to school they are entrusting a group of strangers with their most prized possession. The one thing in the world they would die for: their child.

I’ve dealt with many parents over the course of my career in education, parents who trust the school system and parents who have their own concerns regarding the school and their child. And both sets of parents are in-turn, right because they are talking about their child.

I’ve talked to both sets of parents about developmentally appropriate behaviour and how ‘discipline’ and ‘consequences’ are about teaching children expected versus unexpected behaviours.

I’ve heard parents yell, I’ve heard parents ask questions and I’ve had parents want to talk to me in person. I always felt that what I was saying made sense. When a parent disagreed with me or continued to feel angered at the situation I tried to calm them down. I told them I understood their concern and I understood where they were coming from, but did I really?

I thought I did… That was until today, when I was the one on the other side of that phone call.

The phone rings and it’s a parent… This time I’m the parent on the other end of the phone call. Now I am the one upset because my child was hurt by another child. 

Jackson was bit twice, one of which left a good size mark.  I’m concerned about my son and want to make sure he is OK. I also want to know why my child was targeted and what was done to remedy the situation. I am angry.

How quickly we lose our minds as parents and forget our logical and critical thinking skills… And honestly, I think that is OK at times. I just never thought it would be me.

I always said I’d never be that parent. I absolutely will keep my cool and think the situation through before I ‘jump to action’. I am not going to be the parent who freaks out. I’m just not going to do it. Well, for those of you who are first time readers or just don’t know me well enough… Here’s a little piece of reality… I am that parent… And I don’t care.

When the call came in that my son was bitten I was somewhat understanding. Then it was just once, but that it happened two separate times. I was concerned, but not too worked up until I was told that my son needed to be more careful and the reason he was bit was because he was getting too close to other ‘friends’.

Then I became ‘That Parent!’

‘What do you mean he was bit twice?  Where were you… BOTH TIMES?!!’

‘What do you mean it’s his ‘fault’ because he got in their personal space? He’s two years old of course he’s in others personal space… Two year olds spend most of their days in other people’s personal space!’

‘Did you just say you were going to keep a close eye on my son now? Why weren’t you keeping a close eye on him before he was bit?  Are you keeping a close eye on Hannibal Lector too?’

It’s funny how defensive parents get and how immediately our natural instinct is to protect our children.  Yet, I know either on the phone with an upset parent… Or as the actual upset patent… that’s how it should be. I don’t want my son to feel like he has the right to do anything he wants… but I also don’t want him to feel that he can’t ever do anything right… we all know that feeling:  Eat too little… parents complain.  Eat too much… parents complain. Sleep too much… parents complain… sleep too little… parents complain.

There’s a balance where we constantly toe-the-line as parents when it comes to sticking up for our children and realizing that they have done something wrong. I never experienced the parent side until today… And I now have a new found respect for both sides of the issue!

This event has significantly changed my thought process and the way I will approach these situations moving forward.  I now can tell a parent at my school, ‘I understand how you feel’, and actually understand how they feel. 

I can put myself in their situation and sympathise with what they are thinking. Having a child of my own has helped me merge the research and theory behind how to effectively communicate with a parent who is concerned about their child.

I guess being a parent is not much different than being an administrator.

You have to figure out how to navigate the tough situations while still keeping the best interest in the child in the front of your mind.  I guess being a parent means sometimes being THAT PARENT.

You can follow Peter’s blog Chronicles of a New Dad on Facebook, Twitter and visit his blog here.

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