When I taught middle and high school a few years ago, I became quickly aware of an epidemic spreading among the parents of my students. It was a disorder called the “Not My Child Syndrome.”
What? Haven’t heard of it at your local pediatrician’s office? This disorder is very specific. It targets parents who don’t believe that their child — the one they birthed and raised as their own — could ever do the naughty things their teachers have said they’ve done.
For example, I had a student in 7th grade who liked to run by girls in the hallway and smack their behinds while yelling, “Gotch-ya.” Yes, I kid you not. When I shared this information with the young man’s parents, they looked at me completely baffled and proceeded to explain to me that their child would never do such a thing and that they have taught him to respect women and not act that way. Of course, I would then have to cite the many other examples of his behavior to prove my point, but always still that same reaction of disbelief and denial.
I often wondered if the effects of the “not my child” syndrome wore off by the time the parents got to the car. Did they then look at each other and say, “Well… maybe little Johnny did do that …he does like to smack butts sometimes.”
However, I never was privy to those conversations.
I would leave those parent-teacher conferences with a frustrating pit in my stomach. Where were the days of trusting what a teacher said? When did we start always believing the adolescent child rather than the educated teacher? I’m not saying that every teacher is right all the time, however, I do think that parents are now challenging teachers words more than ever before.
When I was in the 5th grade, I loved to pass notes to my friends. Our teacher told us repeatedly not to do it, however gossip took precedence in my life over my education. One day I was caught by my teacher and she called my mother to tell her. My mother never questioned her, she simply said, “Thank you, this will never happen again.”
When I got home later that afternoon, I had a room emptied of my toys and a corner I had to sit in for quite some time.
I hope there are more of those parents like my own, who trust their child’s teacher and understand that they are doing the best for them. I fear that if the “not my child” syndrome continues, our children will be the ones running the school, rather than the professionals.
Danielle Herzog is married and a mother to two children. Read her every Wednesday on momaha.
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