Encouraging Parents About Their Discouraging Kids

Parent-Teacher Conferences are revealing times. As the familiar Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, reminds us, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”, so it is with the parents who gather for progress reports on the kids.

For some it resembles the announcing of NCAA Basketball Tournament selections. There are the shoo-ins, the ones who know the report is going to be a thumbs-up; the ones who are borderline, could be positive or could be a disappointment; and the ones who already know it’s going to cause them to develop migraines.

As the teachers of their kids, we try to soothe the wounds in the midst of the misery and offer words of encouragement that little Johnny may not be a future president, but he also isn’t destined for Prisoner #123456.

After all, little Johnny may not understand Exponents in Math, but he does Excel in Kindness. He may rarely remember to capitalize “i”, but he understands the world doesn’t revolve around Him. The parents who are wringing their hands over his lack of academic performance are suddenly lifted out of the dark abyss of uncertainty by the story of how their emerging adolescent helped a classmate handle an incident of devastating defeat.

After all, in a few years these sons and daughters will transition from school hallways and assigned desks to a world that is depending on their character, reliability, and ability to adapt. Whereas knowing the differences between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches is important, being a good citizen is essential. The worry lines forming in parents’ faces smooth out when they hear that their kids are going to be okay. They may be challenging in some ways, but they’ll figure life out.

And then they receive the encouraging words. Their kids will be okay because they have parents who care, parents who have not given up hope that the struggles and mediocrity of the present will get refined to success and awesomeness.

It’s the students with the absentee parents or parents who don’t give a rip…those are the kids I develop worry lines over. Years later, they’re the kids that teachers, school counselors, and administrators think about and hope, in the midst of fears, that they’re okay.

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