Not all teachers are created equal. Just about every parent can think back on their own childhood and remember a teacher or two with whom they just didn’t click or even recall being singled out, yelled at or picked on without apparent cause. No parent wants to think their own child is going through the same thing. Of course, angry or frustrated kids may fleetingly express hatred for their teacher and it can be hard for parents to know when their complaint is serious and requires action or if their child is just blowing off steam. Some kids are more prone to drama than others, but an expression of upset this deep should never be ignored. Figuring out exactly what’s going on can be tricky, but here are some tips that may help.

Ask Questions – Children may feel uncomfortable expressing confusion about what they are learning in front of their peers in class, making the teacher a divining rod on which to focus their anxiety and frustration. Don’t, however, automatically assume your child is exaggerating or is in the wrong if they come home with a complaint. It’s possible they had a rough day and simply need to vent, but it’s also possible that they were on the receiving end of inappropriate, venting behavior by their teacher. The only way to really get a handle on what transpired in school is to listen to your child and ask the right questions in a relaxed fashion. Keep your child calm as well, so they can explain why they’re upset. Ask them to describe the reason or reasons why they feel the way they do. Questions to broach in age-appropriate language include:

  • Did something happen today to make you feel this way?
  • Did your teacher yell at you? If so, what happened first?
  • Did your teacher make you feel ashamed or bad? If so, did the other kids laugh or react in some way? What did the teacher do next?
  • Does your teacher treat some of the other kids this way, or just you?
  • Did your teacher make you feel afraid or intimidate you?
  • Did your teacher hit or touch you?

If there seems to have been a specific incident or series of incidents that have upset your child, try to get to the root cause by finding out what happened in the minutes before the teacher seems to have done something upsetting. It’s possible your child did something to trigger the situation and that is important for you to be aware of, so you can work with them on altering their behavior. If there doesn’t appear to be a specific situation when the teacher may have acted inappropriately, try to find out if your child is upset because they are not getting enough support in class to learn. If that seems to be the case, additional questions to ask might include:

  • Do you let your teacher know when you are having trouble understanding the lesson?
  • How does he or she react to your questions?
  • Does your teacher take time to explain things that are hard for you?
  • Are you comfortable raising your hand in class?
  • Does your teacher call on you?
  • Does your teacher ever compare you to another student who is having an easier time with the lesson?

Your child may be having trouble with their teacher because of the amount of homework they have, their overall work load or because they got a bad grade on a test. Getting to the root of the issue can help you determine whether or not you need to discuss the situation with the teacher or principal, or if you are able to support your child to resolve their feelings on their own.

Determine Next Steps – If your child’s frustration seems to stem from an unwieldy workload or confusion about what’s being studied, it may make sense to request a meeting with the teacher to discuss the situation and come up with a game plan. Keeping your child in the loop is a good idea in this instance, as it will allow them to express their feelings and participate in creating a solution. If, however, the issue seems to stem from inappropriate behavior by the teacher and your alarm bells are going off, requesting a meeting with the principal may be a better course of action, particularly if an initial meeting with the teacher did not produce a positive result. If your child has experienced verbal or physical abuse, you may also need to file a complaint with a legal authority.

Meet With the Teacher – The best teachers know they’re not perfect and welcome constructive, thought-out criticism and input from parents. When talking to the teacher, make sure you and your child are able to communicate your concerns without emotion, blame or rancor, and allow for the understanding that no child is perfect either, not even yours. Give the teacher an opportunity to provide a reality check from his or her perspective and be willing to hear them out.

Meet With the Principal – If the teacher is resistant to taking a meeting, listening to your concerns or finding a path towards resolution, ask to meet with the school’s principal or assistant principal. It may feel uncomfortable to go over the teacher’s head, but you may be surprised to find out that yours is not the only complaint. If the relationship between your child and their teacher is affecting their ability to learn, the stakes are high. You don’t want your child to get turned off to the school experience or acquire negative feelings about themselves. The principal may be able to mediate a solution and get the situation in check. In extreme circumstances, your child may benefit from a class change. Teacher-related issues typically show up early in the school year, so if your gut instinct is to go in that direction, make your request as early in the term as is possible to minimize disruption on your child.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at

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