The Art of Good Cop/Bad Cop as a Parent

As a male elementary school teacher, I have encountered just about everything you can imagine over the years. I have taught kindergarten through junior high students with most of my teaching spent with 2nd to 4th-grade kids.

For unknown reasons to me, it always seemed that I would have the most troubled students placed in my class. Eventually, I discovered this was no accident. Usually, it was because the administration felt a positive male role model would be good for the kids, and there were no other male educators at the elementary level.

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The rareness of having a male teacher working with little kids is a fact. It is like seeing a unicorn running through your backyard with a leprechaun on its back. With these troubled kids being put in my classroom, I learned quickly I had to sink or swim.

While at the time, I didn’t have any kids of my own, I always felt that I could get on the same level as these kids. Not in a Billy Madison gloating while playing dodgeball with the kids way, (even though I have played dodgeball with the students a few times) but more in being able to relate to them with the right amount of empathy. Doing this while still being able to act like their older brother, whom they should respect. By the end of each year, these students would always leave my classroom with an improvement in their behavior that was not lost on their parents.

By the end of each year, these students would always leave my classroom with an improvement in their behavior that was not lost on their parents.

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After a while, word got out around the other parents: Mr. Crawley was the troubled kid whisperer. Soon enough, I had parents knocking on my classroom door asking me for advice, and some of the times I didn’t even have their kids in my class!

At first I felt weird handing out my thoughts when I didn’t have any kids of my own, but then again, I heard somewhere that Dr. Phil was not an actual doctor. As time wore on, I just became used to it. Most of the questions by these parents had to do with correcting their child’s behavior.

★★★

Types of Troubling Behavior:

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There are numerous types of behavior that kids can display that will be frustrating for parents. There are things you can do to improve their conduct, but with that said, there is no one answer for disciplining children. Just like the theme song to the classic television show Diff’rent Strokes states, “What might be right for you, may not be right for some.”

Whether you are facing disturbing behaviors such as an overly emotional kid, an extremely quiet child, someone who acts out impulsively without considering their actions, a kid that is a bit destructive and angry at the world, a child that is lazy or too hyper, or a kid that has trouble focusing–there are always possible solutions but it may take some searching. The key is to not just accept their behavior over time because you are frustrated with trying to deal with it.

The key is to not just accept their behavior over time because you are frustrated with trying to deal with it.

★★★

Parents that Have Me Questioning the World Around Me…

Hopefully parents are willing to try anything to help fix their child’s attitude because this is not an exact science, that is exactly what is needed. However, over the last couple of years, I have learned that some parents are, shall we say, determined to not discipline their children at all.

Two different sets of parents asked for a conference with me recently wondering if I could do them a favor. What was the favor you may ask? The favor these parents were asking me not to punish their kids at school, no matter what they had done.

They wanted a Get Out of Jail free card that didn’t ever expire for their child. These were well-educated people, too, which made it even more worrisome. They said punishment does not work with their children, so I should just stop trying.

They said punishment does not work with their children, so I should just stop trying.

I should explain what punishment I was handing out to their kids so you can weigh these requests yourself. If the child was disrupting class continuously, I would take away only half of their recess time for the day which equaled about seven minutes. If they were late on an assignment, I would have them stay in for recess to finish it.

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If I saw them treating another student rudely on purpose, I would have them write a half page paper on how they could improve their behavior. All of these punishments were not severe in the least because most of these students were very good kids. Sure, they would act up now and then, but nothing too serious. And I was always ready to forgive them quickly after their time was served. I don’t hold any grudges nor do I make voodoo dolls of the kids.

Of course, I let the parents down gently as I rejected their requests. They were not happy with it, but I would always end the meeting with, “Give me nine months with your kid and then tell me if their behavior has improved.” When it comes down to it, it’s not about the severity of the punishment, but how you handle the situation.

If I had a dollar for every time I have seen a parent yelling at a toddler for screaming in the supermarket, I would be a very rich man. This behavior displayed by the parent only makes it worse. I keep on expecting the Oompa Loompas to immediately jump out and start singing about how a parent has failed their child because they are modeling wrong behavior.

The truth of the matter is that you have to know when to be their best friend (good cop) and then you have to realize when you have to be their warden (bad cop).

The truth of the matter is that you have to know when to be their best friend (good cop) and then you have to realize when you have to be their warden (bad cop). You have to display the proper attitude when doing both roles so they take you seriously as a parent and someone who is going to guide them through life. Parenting is not easy by any means, but that is what makes it so great when you raise a child that you can be proud of. There really is no better feeling in the world.★

                                                     Ryan Crawley is an educator, journalist, and fitness enthusiast frorym Illinois. While not teaching children and playing with his dogs, he enjoys reading just about everything he can get his hands on and writing about his experiences.

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