Teachers have it extremely hard sometimes, having to deal with kids who just don’t know how to behave, or worse. And often times, it leaves these educators wondering why and how the child became that way, to begin with. And it can all be explained by meeting their parents.
These teachers have had all their questions answered by one meeting with the child’s parents. And they’ve been kind enough to share those experiences with us today. If you’d like to read about some of the “a-ha!” moments teachers have had, keep scrolling.
40. At 8, She Was More Mature
A friend is a teacher who had a student who was never clean, properly dressed, or prepared for school. She was also learning disabled. She had to get herself ready for school and it was beyond her talents and yet she showed up every day. At a parent-teacher conference, my friend thought she was meeting the mom of the student.
It was her grandmother. The grandmother was 36 and the student was 8. Do the math on that one. At 8, the student was more mature than her mom and grandmother and realized the importance of going to school even if it was only to get out of the house. The girl’s struggles were explained by that one meeting.
39. Strong and Smart and Happy
I had a girl that was polite, well-behaved, she never raised her voice or fought. She was playing one day with other girls and they asked her if she wanted to be a princess, she said yes. Then they asked her who was her husband, she said she had none. The other girls were kinda shocked, so the little girl replied that she didn’t need a husband to be a good princess or queen. That she was strong.
It turns out her mom was a single woman; she worked in real estate, selling high-end properties, and couldn’t have kids. The mom told me that she fought a lot to be able to adopt her daughter, being a single mom, until she was able to do it. She loved that little girl more than anything and it showed; she wanted her to be happy, not rich or entitled, but strong and smart and happy.
38. The Cards He Was Dealt
I had a kid who was constantly getting into fights for no apparent reason. I found out from his mom that his dad was shot on his front lawn when he was 6 and that he was bullied ruthlessly since the 3rd grade– now he’s in high school.
At 14 he’s the oldest of four and expected to be the man of the house; his family had recently been evicted when his mom was in jail. Once she got out, his mom was diagnosed with diabetes. If that was my life, I’d probably want to take it out on everyone else too.
37. The Reason for the Escalation
I do remember one specific conference when I was a student teacher. A kid had been having trouble with another student and had been escalating things pretty aggressively.
When we talked to the mom about it, she responded with something very close to, “Well I told her that she oughta slap that little twit in the mouth.” Gee, I wonder where the kid got it from?
36. Demon Spawn
I was fired from my job as an aftercare worker for kids around the age of 5 for telling the mother her child was demon spawn. The mother could not care less and took her daughter to see Santa.
The daughter would take her hairpins off and try to poke other children in the eyes with them, all while laughing. But I was wrong, right? I was just trying to make sure she didn’t send anyone to the hospital.
35. She Gave It To Him
I had one kid, a 7th grader, selling and smoking contraband on campus.
I told the mom about it and she said, “I know, I gave them to him. It’s his medicine.”
34. She’s A Libra
At a parent meeting to discuss problematic behavior, a parent once said to me, “the first thing you need to understand about my child is that she is a Libra.”
In that single instant, all hope was lost.
33. She Couldn’t Help It
A girl in my class shouted all the time, not in an aggressive way, just as if her personal volume was set way above everyone else. I was constantly having to ask her to turn it down and we privately used to refer to her “gob on a stick.”
I met her parents and discovered they both had a hearing impairment. Basically, the poor kid had to shout at home for anyone to hear and just found it hard to adjust to another environment.
32. He Was Just Dehydrated
I had a kid who would freak out whenever he was asked to do something he didn’t want to. He’d scream, throw things, cry, and he’s in the 10th grade. Once he punched through a glass trophy case.
I met the mom and explained that her son seriously needed an environment with more one on one support. She said he was just dehydrated and we shouldn’t be so hard on him.
31. He Never Bothered, Why Should They?
I was tutoring three kids in the same family. All of them were WAY behind from where they should be in school, barely reading, terrible at math, etc.
I would work with them in their living room when their grandfather would walk by and say, “I don’t know why you bother with that crap; I never learned to read and it never slowed me down.” I quit shortly after that.
30. Rewards for Bad Behavior
There’s a boy in my class who hits children and laughs about it, most times with small disturbing smile as the other kid freaks out. We’ve told his parent repeatedly, and his mother just stood there with her arms crossed, and looked at us like we should go die.
Then she smiled at her son and asked in an overly cheerful voice if he wanted to get ice cream/to go to the movies/ play mini golf, essentially rewarding him for this behavior. It was so infuriating. But it made sense.
29. That Explains It All
At a parent-teacher conference, a foul-mouthed, obnoxious student accompanied his parents. The child proceeded to drop f-bombs in the course of ordinary conversation with his parents at my table.
With no consequence or comment from his parents at all.
28. She Had to Grow Up Fast
I worked at a summer school during college and met a girl who was 10 years old that acted like an adult 30-year-old. When I say that she acted like a 30-year-old woman, you might think that I was being funny. But she treated going to school like it was a 9-5 job. She didn’t really do any of the kid things or try to socialize with other students. She got to school early and stayed every day after school to finish her homework (even turning it in a day early sometimes).
One day, I was at a 7-11 by my house and I saw her. Both of her parents were blind and she would guide them for four blocks to get groceries and dinner. At that moment, I tried to process that she was taking care of both of her parents at an unthinkable age. I’m a grown man and I don’t cry during movies. But that moment made me break into tears.
27. A Step Back
I had a student who blatantly does not respect women or girls. He ignored every single direction we gave him and it was a constant battle for every little thing. With the one male teacher he had, he was a little angel. We requested a meeting with the parents and his mom and dad came.
During the meeting, his dad only made eye contact and spoke to the (male) dean and ignored every single thing we had to say. His mom didn’t say a word the whole time; it made me really sad, but I understood.
26. “Got It”
I once had an experience with a parent which went like this. The teacher said, “Your child is cursing in my class.”
The parent responded by saying, “Why the hell are you calling me about this?” The teacher stopped in shocked silence and then said, “Got it. Have a nice day sir.”
25. So this Is Where She Got It From…
I was in a program where I worked in a school for a year supporting teachers and running an after-school program. One day, a fight broke out during out after school program. We called the parents of the children involved and had them sit and wait.
When one parent stormed in, she looked at her kid and asked “Why are you fighting? Why you gotta fight?” She then slapped her daughter across the face so hard kids on the other side of the cafeteria looked over. I whispered to a teacher, “So there is where she got it from.”
24. Like Mother, Like Daughter
There was a girl who had trouble making friends; she was really entitled and only played on her terms. I met her mom one day. She came to talk to me because I was supposed to make the other girls play with her daughter because she deserved friends.
According to her, her daughter had the best playtime ideas, so the other girls were supposed to follow her daughter’s lead.
23. It Made Perfect Sense Then
I once had a mother of a particularly troublesome pack of daughters. These girls were constantly in trouble, were suspended for fighting, cutting class, arguing with teachers, you name it.
One day as I was passing through the front lobby of the school and one was standing there talking with her mother. The mom had a neck tattoo with a derogatory word in big bold letters across her neck. Everything made perfect sense then.
22. She Wasn’t Paying Attention
I was a student teacher and once had to call in the parents about the 5th graders’ behavior for a conference.
One mom was under the influence and brought her boyfriend along. I spent most of the conference talking to him because the mother wasn’t really paying attention.
21. It All Clicked
My wife had some lady call her up and scream at her until she cried over her kid having a C in English. The kid refused to do homework, had a learning disability his mother refused to acknowledge, and had no friends because he was super weird. My wife felt bad for the kid and went out of her way to make sure he wasn’t failing and wasn’t the class pariah. And this mom had the audacity to scream at her for it and call her a worthless teacher.
During a parent-teacher conference with the principal, concerning the child’s grades and behavior, the kid, who is in 7th grade, spent the whole time sitting on his mom’s lap. He called her ‘mommy’ and she petted his hair the whole time. Then it all clicked for my wife, this mother was ruining her child’s life by being super clingy and spoiling him.
20. Branded Into Her
During my first year of teaching (10th grade) in a country in Southern Africa, there was a girl in my class who was the queen bee. She looked older than she was and bossed all the other students around. She could be a real diva, had a constant attitude and encouraged other kids to ignore or defy me.
We had a sort of parent-teacher conference and I brought her behavior up with her parents. They said, “we know she has a terrible attitude. We punish her all the time, and it does nothing. So what are we supposed to do?” They seemed genuinely at a loss. And from then on I just felt bad for her. Her teenage rebelliousness seemed a lot less offensive, knowing that she had been punished repeatedly.
19. You Never Know
I wasn’t a teacher, but as part of university placement, I went to a primary school for 6 months and went to the youngest level class (ages 4 to 5). There was one child who was just the biggest brat. He was constantly interrupting and jumping from his chair, refusing to do work etc etc. But sometimes in the day, he would randomly shoot up out of his desk and run to the toilet. About two months in, I found out that his mother had terminal cancer, and he had a younger brother at home with autism who had challenging behaviors. And his dad was struggling to cope.
I also found out that when he stood up and ran to the bathroom, he was going there to cry. It absolutely broke my heart. Though the positive end to the story is that the school set up a charity for his mother, which made it possible for her to get various life-prolonging treatments. She was supposed to have 2 years to live, maximum, and this was three, nearly four years ago. I saw her fairly recently with her sons. I think about them all often. It just goes to show you really don’t know what people are going through.
18. “He Gets That From Me”
I taught a 6-year-old boy who had way more back-chat and anger than was normal for a boy his age. Any instruction would be meet with shouting, an argument, or him storming out of the classroom.
During the parents’ meeting, I was explaining my concerns to his mother who immediately said, “Oh yeah, he gets that from me. I hate authority. I hate the police. I always hated my teachers.” There was no realization that maybe this wasn’t such a good thing and that it would definitely be affecting his life.
17. No Accountability
Years ago, I had a student who was adorable and super smart. He was also sneaky and incredibly rude towards me and the other students. He had to be watched like a hawk at all times and ultimately required a personal shadow to protect the other kids. We had an intervention with his parents. I had spoken to his mom on numerous occasions and she was so casual about everything.
At the meeting with the mom and dad and all the teachers who interacted with the boy, I told them that he regularly hit me. The father’s response, “well, what did SHE do to cause him to do that?” There was no accountability at all and they saw their kid as a victim. Those parents were absolute idiots and eventually, their son was the first student ever expelled.
16. She Gave Him What?
I had a parent openly tell me that she gave strange substances to her middle schooler to make him easier to handle at home. She started doing it before school so “the teachers wouldn’t have to deal with it either!” She was so proud, almost as if she’d found this marvelous solution and so altruistic to extend the courtesy to us.
That was the first two minutes of our parent-teacher conference and all of a sudden, it made perfect sense why he was so inattentive and unmotivated at all times.
15. A Disgusting Father
I had a student who kept pooping and peeing his pants, seemingly on purpose. It would happen once a month or so and you’d honestly want to smack the little chap because when he’d do it, after his several surrounding students vacated and he was left alone on his little island of desks, he would have the most satisfied, smug grin on his face. Needless to say, the janitor really hated this kid.
Finally, his father got called in and we started off by discussing his son’s grades and work; he asked to see the science papers, I obliged and got up to retrieve them from the drawer behind me. My back was facing him and all of a sudden a putrid scent filled the room. I turned around with a look of disgust, only to be met with the father, making the same smug grin. I asked him to leave and he laughed and walked out.
14. They Understood
Most of my teachers knew immediately why I was so awkward and quiet. I remember one teacher describing it as “two of the most dysfunctional parents I saw with no plans for divorce.” My dad was often arrogant, and my mother usually played the diplomat until she broke down in tears.
By 7th grade, Child Protective Services had a file on me. By 10th grade, they got directly involved, even taking my dad to court so I could get vital medical care like glasses and psychotherapy. Most of my teachers were warned ahead of time by that point. Almost all of them understood never to contact my parents.
13. Too Scared to Say “No”
I had a kid who would struggle to listen to anything or follow directions. When told what to do, he would break down. I eventually got him to listen a little bit. Then I met his mom.
She lets him do whatever he wants, even write on the walls in their house. She’s too scared to tell her own child ‘no.’
12. Trained Like A What?
Many years ago, I was an interpreter in a first-grade classroom. There was one student who barely signed, and when he did, it was very tiny and almost in his lap. He was reluctant to touch anything in the classroom and took most of the year to understand that he was allowed to play with the toys when it was play time. It took that same amount of time to get him to actually communicate with us.
Then his father came in for a parent conference. He pointed to the student, who was playing with a puzzle, and to a spot on the floor. The student immediately stopped what he was doing, flew to the indicated spot, and sat with his hands in his lap and his face/eyes down. He didn’t move a muscle for the entire hour of the meeting. The student was not treated as a child at home.
11. Real Life Eric Cartman
There’s a kid that was very overweight, very aggressive and all over just not receptive to normal logic or social rules. It turns out his mom is a complete airhead hippie who does nothing in form of parenting but talk about how fantastic and misunderstood he is, all while constantly looking like she just came home from a burning man concert and smelled like patchouli.
That’s a little Cartman in the making, I swear.
10. Always Expecting the Worst
I was teaching fresh out of college and had to do weekly and biweekly calls to update parents on how their children were doing. I called one parent and her first question, after I’d explained why I was calling and what we were going to talk about, was, “What has he been doing wrong? Is he being stupid again?”
The kid was 17, had already been in jail a couple of times, and was actually quite gifted at math considering the disruptions in education he had. I told her only the best things about him.
9. Having Other Priorities
I’m a Brazilian teacher and I used to work for a Catholic school with a program for low-income families; they provided good education, food, school supplies, etc. There was this incredibly thoughtful 12-year-old kid with a hyperactive personality. He was always badly behaved but always had a magical smile in his face. It didn’t matter what I tried to overcome his behavioral problems, there was always a counter behavior to make me feel unproductive.
Then I got to meet his mother. The woman came to me during the parent’s meeting the school arranged and said, “I have no time for nonsense! Cut to the end! I have to finish my book (Fifty Shades of Grey) and watch the soccer game on TV tonight. He’s just a problem like his father was.” The kid felt shameful. I just replied, “Your son is a great kid, one of the best students I have. I think you’re talking about another child because this boy here is just superb.” She stared me wordlessly and left the room.
8. Genuinely Happy
I had a student who was incredibly friendly and got along with everyone. He was always cheerful and very, very huggy (but not in an inappropriate way).
I’d met his mother a number of times before, but on awards day at the end of the year, she gathered me and him up in a group hug in the middle of the hallway, and I finally felt like I really understood him. There was no real reason for the hug, she’s just a genuinely happy person.
7. How Dare They?
My favorite thing to deal with is parents sending me messages about their children’s grades, but that child has missed 25-40 days of my 90-day semester. It always turns into, “Is there a way for them to make up the assignments.”
It drives me nuts. I teach in an awesome building with a ton of diversity. But the apple truly never falls far from the tree. That meeting is always rescheduled at least once, mind you, because they never show at the original time.
6. Being Judgemental
Years ago, I worked with special ed students. Because these students lack the intellectual capacity to delay gratification, caregivers have to watch their diet so they don’t just eat junk food.
One student had Downs-Syndrome and was obese, and I had some judgmental thoughts about her folks dropping the ball. Then I met her folks, and the student was the thinnest one in the family. If anything, they took better care of her than they did of themselves. Lesson learned about being judgmental that day.
5. From An ‘F’ to a ‘C’
I tutored this student who didn’t care about school and didn’t want to try. He forgot a charger or something like that so the dad called him in the middle of the session and yelled at him for 10 minutes. I could hear the yelling from several feet away and the phone was not on speaker.
That’s when I realized all the anger and bad behavior, dejectedness, and motorcycle escapism made sense. He made some improvements working with me; he got his F to a C.
4. Family Dynamics
I had a couple of boys that were really problematic. They were brothers but they were different ages, so they attended different classes. Both were overly dramatic; they needed constant attention and became really angry and violent when they didn’t have their way.
They never behaved properly; they were always looking for trouble, but when I tried to discipline them, it was hell. They cried, screamed and hit themselves or others. I met the parents; the mom was a lawyer, really strict and never showed affection towards them, and the dad was a police officer, also quite strict and, to this day, I suspect he punished them badly. It was awful.
3. Making Excuses
Any time a parent comes in and complains about their ex-spouse or blames their ex-spouse for their kid’s problems, I get annoyed, and it happens A LOT. I get lots of, “At their dad’s house, they get to do whatever they want and they get their phones and get to play video games, but at MY house, we are strict and they only eat vegetables and read books and say their daily prayers,” and “Their mom, that cheating cow, has her new boyfriend over with his six kids, so my child is distracted from doing all his work and wants to come live with me, but can’t because of court orders.”
It usually sounds very dramatic and they will say it in front of their kids, too. It’s no wonder the kids can’t figure out what to do with themselves; they have to project the negative and soul-crushing energy their parents are constantly projecting.
2. The Alway Irritated Mom
I had a student who was a low-level rebel. I taught an elective, but I’m sure he was put in my class because it seemed like very little effort at the time. He was sulky, had issues with authority, didn’t turn in his homework, etc. I dealt with him the same way that I deal with all my kids, and we slowly started to develop some fragile rapport.
At one parent-teacher conference, his mom brought him along. He looked trapped and defensive, and she looked irritated. By that point in the year, he was passing my class, so I started off by reviewing his grades and the events that were coming up in my class. She interrupted me near the end to say, “yeah yeah, but what is his behavior in class like? How badly is he behaving for you?” The poor kid slid lower in his chair, and I can tell that his mom brought him along as an exercise in shaming her kid. I didn’t feel like playing that game, so I brightly laid out every possible positive interaction I had with him during the year- the conversations he had with me about career aspirations, the times he showed up on time to class, whatever I could throw at her. She left still looking irritated, but her kid left looking a little better. Sure, there were things I wished he would improve on, but that’s a conversation for me and him to work out, not something to pile on in an evening of lectures from other teachers.
1. No Motivation At Home
I had this student who was so down on himself; his intuition for math was great and he would understand everything in class but then there would be no follow through. There was no effort with homework or anything. At parent-teacher conferences, he had almost failed my class but I let him do makeup work and he just barely made it. I spoke to him in front of his father and said, “I think he can do better than this.”
The father looked at him and said, “I don’t think he can; I think this is your best.” I’m not supposed to contradict parents, but I said, “I think he will prove you wrong.” I realized his father constantly puts him down so he has no motivation.