When your child comes home complaining about something that ‘the school’ has done, what do you do?

Sometimes it’s just kids complaining about anything that doesn’t fit with what they want.  But occasionally there is a valid issue that really needs to be addressed.

You don’t want to be that parent who is forever calling up the school secretary and complaining about things.  Besides that’s pretty time consuming.  So how can you influence change at the school your kids attend?

  1. Find out if your child’s school has a suggestion scheme. Clearly this isn’t a complaints forum, so you’ll need to think about how the issue could be framed in constructive terms.  If the scheme is for kids, rather than parents, discuss how your child could submit a suggestion that has some weight behind it.  This may mean helping them to see the positive potential, rather than what is not working.
  2. Join the PTA. The Parent-Teachers forum can be an excellent place to start change happening.  If there is a real issue, it’s likely that other people will also have experienced it (or their kids will have) and this can generate useful discussion that the teachers involved can take back to school for review.
  3. Suggest your child joins the school council. If there’s a student council at your school, encourage your child to apply or stand for election.  They’ll be in a situation where they can influence change.  As a footnote, this will also look good on their CV and on their personal statement when they apply for university.
  4. Talk it out. This isn’t an either/or option – it’s something that you should be doing anyway.  Discussing the issue with your child is the first step to exploring the problem.  Get them to explain why it’s a problem, what the impact is on all the parties involved – the students, the teachers, the school administration, etc.  The more rational thought they apply, the more likely they will be to explore whether it’s a real problem that needs addressing or just something that’s currently irritating them personally.
  5. Encourage your child to submit a suggestion. If there isn’t a formal suggestions scheme or school council and your child is convinced there is an issue, get them to put it all into a report.  They’ll need more than an emotional ‘it’s not fair’ approach.  It’s good practice for them to gather information and make a case for change.  Get them to suggest more than one possible solution and ensure their suggestion is rational, rather than emotional.

Becoming influential is not just about making a lot of noise, but about standing up to be counted when others do a lot of talking and very little doing!