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Parenting Spike: The seriously difficult child- Hating Teachers

by Andrew D. Gibson, Ph.D.


Spike saves all his charm for everyone except parents and teachers. Teachers are just an extension of parents and he doesn’t like either one. Spike is a ten year old, out of control child with a psychiatric diagnosis and a long history of being a pain in the neck. Or worse.

Spike thinks teachers are annoying. They don’t like him. He doesn’t like them. He can find something wrong with any of them and use it for justification to say and act out anything that he wants. They get impatient with him easily. Sometime they yell. They are often sarcastic. Their tone of voice sounds like it was scraped off the street. They are disrespectful and often can not find the strength to be kind. As far as Spike is concerned, all they do is push him away. So he pushes back.

Teachers, it turns out, are parents. By and large they are no more effective in dealing with kids like Spike than any other set of parents. They think that when they have a kid like Spike in their classroom, that their obligation is to let the kid know, as often as he needs reminding, that he is wrong.

Spike gets the message all right. But it doesn’t make him want to conform to their idea of ‘right’ any more than his parent’s nagging will. Like parents, they are also stuck in the negative, thinking that there is where they are supposed to be. After all, a disrespectful kid can’t be tolerated, can he?

Not only do teachers commonly find numerous parent-like ways of rejecting problems like Spike, they are also quick to accuse parents themselves of malpractice in parenting. Parents feel this very sharply. Teachers want parents to do something that they themselves can’t. Teachers, like most parents, are stuck in punishment as though their notion of punishment actually punishes. Accusation, for instance, is a form of punishment.

But does accusation have its desired impact? Probably not. It just builds resentment. As most parents of the Spike’s of this world understand, just because you are a professional in the child business doesn’t mean you are a good model. But it is also true that parents can often see negativity in teachers before they see it in themselves.

So, what to do? There is no reason that teachers need to hide behind, “ But I have 25 other kids!” as an excuse for sounding unkind. The other 25 need kindness, too. There is also no reason a teacher can’t establish and can’t keep high standards while at the same time sounding accepting.

A kid may need to go to the office, but he doesn’t need sarcasm, a crappy tone of voice, anger or impatience to get him there. It won’t get him to the office any faster nor will it keep the kid from returning to class any differently.

Teachers need to set the model that they want to see in parents. They are in a much better position to advise when they do.

About The Author

Dr. Andrew Gibson was born in Detroit at the close of WWII. He grew up in the midst of farming country in central Michigan. Both parents were teachers. He keeps a picture of his childhood companion, Wags, to this day (you had to see the tail to appreciate the name). After discharge from the Navy after the Viet Name war, he graduated with a BA and MA from San Diego State University and earned his Ph. D from the University of Connecticut. He has taught at Portland State University, n Portland Oregon, at the University of Maine, Presque Isle and at SUNY New Paltz. He resides in Eastern Connecticut, with his wife of 41 years, where he conducts a private practice in parenting seriously difficult children. His book “Got An Angry Kid? Parenting Spike-A Seriously Difficult Child’ is the first of a series examining seriously difficult children at various age and emotional disturbance levels. He invites you to find him on the web at

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6 Responses so far.

  1. 1
    Benita G. says:

    Teachers that I know try very hard to relate to and understand children. Parents never have 34 children, the legal amount of students in a classroom. Parents are not required to complete a curriculum in a given number of days.
    I’m not sure I understand the point here. I’m certain that all adults, both parents and teachers put their best foot forward to assist children. After all, they are the role models and the teachers of the child.

  2. 2
    ehilliard says:

    I am a facilitator for homeschool families. As a teacher and homeschooling adviser I find that I have more time to relate to my students, some who I have worked with for 6+ years.

    I think that the nature of the program I work for make is easy for me to connect and make a real difference in the lives of my students :)

  3. 3

    Giving importance to children’s small and silly problems is the best way of building strong relationship with them. They will be happy when they feel that importance is being given to them.

  4. 4
    Robyn says:

    I think the most important thing we can do is teach our children to respect adults. If the foundation is built on respect, we can work out differences much easier.

  5. 5
    Robyn says:

    Timely article as school is starting soon.

  6. 6
    Christine W says:

    Wow! This guy is really down on teachers. As a high school teacher, I would like to see how he does handling a minimum of 28 students every class period for an hour six times per day. We are only human but certainly give each student the best that we can each day. I treat my students with respect and usually receive the same in return. I give many of my students more love and attention than they will ever get at home. Yes, there are some teachers like you describe, but don’t lump all of us into that category. I’m certainly not in it for the money.

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