Do I say anything?

I don’t do it as often as I’d like to, but I love doing the school run with my son.

We try to have breakfast together as a family most mornings, so if I do the morning school run it’s a great extension of that. We’re lucky enough to be close enough to school to be able to walk, so unless the weather is terrible (or I have to dash off in the car) that’s what we do. On the way to school we try to chat about the day ahead, but it’s usually random stuff like “Daddy, do you believe in God?” – and other easy to answer questions. And then we get to school and off he goes to kick a football around until the bell goes.

On the way home from school, he’s a bundle of over-excited and over-tired energy, just waiting to be released and run around like crazy for a bit. For the first few minutes there’s no sense from him and any question about school is met with a “it just flew out of my brain” answer as he decompresses from a day sitting still and being quiet. But then as we walk and talk and he’s eats his snack we chat about something and nothing.

As I say, I love it.

Or at least I did until the last few times I’ve done it when I’ve had the misfortune to bump into another dad who is seriously getting on my nerves.

We haven’t spoken directly, although he always seems very friendly and polite to other parents in general, but the attitude, demeanour and tone of voice he displays to his children angers me every time I see him. I’ve never heard a friendly word spoken to his kids, but worse than that he regularly tells them to “shut it”, “be careful or you’ll get a clout”, “do as you’re bloody told”. But it’s not just the words it’s the tone and aggression that he uses. It is honestly something I find completely inappropriate and especially unnecessary on school premises.

I find myself having to bite my tongue and I really, really don’t want my son exposed to it.

So my question is – should I say something to the school to see if they can get him to stop? Or should I even approach him directly?

What do you think?

 

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Do I say anything?

  1. Sadly, for many children, this sort of parenting is ‘normal’. It’s so distressing to witness it though. I once followed a couple around a supermarket who were being constantly abusive to their child – and had the same dilemma as you.

    My view would be that approaching this father directly would be pointless – he’s unlikely to take any notice, or to take kindly to what he would see as your interference. There might even be repercussions for his son afterwards.

    Rather, I would have a quiet word with the head. They may want to monitor the child more closely for any sign that the child isn’t suffering even more serious abuse once he gets home – and they have access to the relevant people who have the skill (and the right) to carry out a positive intervention if necessary.

    Does Joshua get on with this boy? If so, inviting him around for tea/play might at least give him some respite. If you can bear it, there is also the possibility that if the boy’s father comes to pick him up, the good parenting he experiences when he visits might start to rub off.

    • Hi Margaret, thanks for that. And thanks mainly for your optimism that someone visiting our house may improve their parenting. It assumes that a) we do a good job of it (I think we do, so thanks); and b) that this person can be influenced in this way (which I think is unlikely, hence me talking about your optimism).
      Unfortunately I don’t know the child involved yet and I’m not sure that Joshua does either – although I will explore this option further.
      As for the school, unfortunately I’m not sure they have the skills to deal with it effectively – without it actually getting “messier” and more likely to involve a direct confrontation with the parent.

      • Clearly not my area Patrick, so I’m happy for someone to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, but it does seem to me that setting a good example often rubs off on people. Also, as I’m please to see – from your response to Mike – that you are confident that the father does love his child, then it might be just a communication issue (i.e. that’s the way his parents talked to him and he knows no better), or even down to personal insecurities of his own.

        Whilst not directly relevant, my own daughter once asked if she could invite a boy from her school back to play. She was about 8 at the time and this boy was always in trouble and so my heart sank. However, it was a small village school of less than 50 children and so I thought it only fair to give him a chance – fully intending, I have to admit, that it would be his one and only visit. The odd thing was, however, that the child arrived, pushed the boundaries a little, was told firmly that he was to behave whilst he was at my house, and then proceeded to be as good as gold.

        As he was leaving, I told the boy to tell his mother that he had been a good boy and was welcome to come and play at our house whenever he liked. He replied rather sheepishly with the words – and I will never forget this – ‘Oh, thank you. Everyone else thinks I’m a pain’. What a burden for a child to bear!

  2. Yes. You go to the head teacher, identify the parent and explain that you are not happy about threatening language being used on school property, within earshot of other parents and in particular children. You request that the school discuss this with the parent in question, and that you are informed of the outcome. The school has an obligation to provide a safe, non-threatening environment for staff, children and visitors. If the behaviour is repeated you advise the school again, and also tell them that should it not be resolved you will take the matter up with the county.

    • Mike thanks for that and I agree that should be the course of action. Unfortunately as I said to Margaret I’m not sure they have the skills to deal with it effectively – without it actually getting “messier” and more likely to involve a direct confrontation with the parent.
      My consolation is that at this stage I’m fairly certain that it is just the language and tone and isn’t leading to any physical abuse. I’m also fairly certain that the father loves his kids and that this is caused by a lack of parenting skills and nothing more sinister. It doesn’t make it any more pleasant to listen to though.

      • The school may surprise you.

        On the other hand, they may prove useless. If that turns out to be the case, there are very well-defined best-practices in place that are there to help you as a parent and the school address these issues. The local authority will have oodles of process on this, with defined timeframes for the school to act/respond. It is never OK for language like this to be tolerated on school grounds, and you are perfectly within your rights to hold the head teacher to account for any lack of action. (takes off school governor hat)

  3. Stuart Grimley

    Whatever your choice your son over time will recognise what sort of parent he has. Probably the most important thing ( and by that the other boy will see his parent for what he is -sadly)

  4. John

    Grey areas always trickiest. Is it possible for you to get another opinion on likelihood the Head will handle this well? I don’t mean by spreading your concern, but may be trying to understand if Head shows signs of the empathy and the strength. (Of course if the Head is REALLY good, you won’t know about past work.) or is it possible to make a more general word to head along lines of “coming back from Canada I have been struck by how harsh some of the parents are…” without making it a specific complaint.

    And the idea of getting the child to your house is good one, maybe as part of a group activity so it doesn’t seem artificial?

    Good luck

  5. A real middle-class dilemma Patrick ! In our experience we’ve found that if we see something then it’s pretty likely that other parents and the school will have spotted it too. If his behaviour is as prevalent as you say then it’s unlikely that you’re alone in your observations. Children also tend to imitate their parents & replicate their behaviour so his teacher is probably already aware of this too. I’m not suggesting an abdication of responsibility here, but playground politics are a minefield – and I’d guess even more so in a small place like Southwell.

    And without sounding like a woolly liberal we have to be careful of projecting our values onto others from different backgrounds. So I’d leave it to the school who are trained, closer to it and have the right to intervene (or at least refer it on) if things really are as serious as you suspect.

    Catch up soon I hope.

    • Geoff, you’re absolutely right in that it is a middle-class dilemma. You’re also right about projecting our values, although in this case I’m happy to project these values. Since the original post I haven’t done anything as yet, but that’s mainly because I’ve not been at the school to witness it again. If I do see it again I will raise it in some form, but won’t point out the individuals involved.

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