My child is having a very difficult start to the school year. There seems to be a personality conflict between him and his teacher. My child is generally obedient and does not act up, but he is coming home tense and too wired up. When I ask him what's bothering him, he just says that there are so many rules in the classroom, he feels like he is "in prison." I'm getting the feeling that the teacher's style is very rigid, whereas in the past, my child has thrived in a freer, more creative type of atmosphere. How can I help him?


As we have discussed in a previous edition of this column, often our main problem in getting a positive outcome is that other people are needed to effect change, which means the chances for a positive outcome can be poor. Everything in your question rests solely on the personality and good will of your son's teacher. If you feel you can approach his teacher and reach an understanding of how to best serve your son's needs within the framework of her class, great! Problem solved. I have a feeling that if that were an option you would have done it already. Now what do you do?

There are two things to remember:

1. Your son will have new teachers each year, each with differing styles, some more strict and others more liberal.

2. The situation should now be looked at as a test of his resiliency; all comments should be aimed at being supportive and not destructive.

It is point number two that I would like to discuss. There is very little point in putting down your son's teacher, especially in his presence, as this undermines her authority and will lead to conflict. It is also a wrong thing to do to any person. Our Sages take great pains to impress on every person that they should treat all others with dignity and respect. The focus should be on supporting your son by allowing him to verbalize his problems and frustrations in school and helping him understand why it bothers him and how he can best think about these challenges in order to better cope.

We are often given situations that we don't like but still must deal with. For instance, perhaps Mom or Dad could tell him about a boss whose management style is different than what they are use to… Stories from our own life help our children cope and give them a link to us. It also allows for more release of emotion as they feel safer to release based on the common experience. A good one-on-one in this manner may have a very healing effect.

Try getting into his head and together develop strategies for him to cope. Positive thoughts in certain situations, just like the little train who thought he could, you can help your son talk himself though this with positive phrases to use in specific situations. It could be anything that appeals to him. He needs a way to be the free spirit, to have some way of not feeling dominated by his teacher or his environment.

Lastly he needs to be able to release his tension at home in a positive manner. You don't want him hitting his baby brother when he comes home. Look into some extra curricular activities and see what appeals to him and works with your family budget and time.

There is no doubt that you are in a tricky situation, but the bottom line is that your son will be exposed to lots of people and situations that will be difficult for him, and learning how to cope and work with different types of people is a good thing. If he sees this as a challenge that he can surmount, it will lead to him having greater skills and be a better person. It requires effort, but he can handle it—and you will be there to support him every step of the way.

Wishing you and your family all the best!