When parents have a choice between making they or their kids look good, they pick themselves: The often-dreaded parent-teacher conference … seems to be an evaluation of student performance, [but] is more often than not an evaluation of the parent and the teacher, by each other. …
You gotta be kidding me. At least where I grew up it was all about authority, teachers over kids and parents over kids. Kids were supposed to shut up and do as they were told. AFAIK this is part of every school to a greater or lesser degree.
And btw, I see this same pattern go on nowadays when I'm an adult. I still see my parents critisizing me in front of others. I think they would rather fit in with the general consensus than stand up for their child.
Exactly. Reading this just made me think: "So, Robin doesn't have kids. Noted."
The analysis is just starting from some really weird assumptions. It's closer to the truth to say that parents view kids as *parts of themselves.* Normal parents are always angling for advantages for their kids, but often they try to get that advantage by creating a false intimacy with the kids' teacher. So you get lines like "Jimmy's really hard sometimes, isn't he?"
This parent isn't throwing Jimmy under the bus. She's trying to *play* the teacher, to establish a friendship that will ultimately be beneficial to Jimmy. This would be obvious to anyone who has been in the situation.
Jess, I can't reply to you, so I'm replying to myself....
I was picking up on "Instead of defending their children, parents are consistently critical about their children when talking with teachers, often delivering unsolicited, negative information about them", which admittedly might not be irrelevant information.
Pithy and cutting.
In the culture I grew up with (and also in Japanese) one would do this, but put a different spin on the reason. In fact, the parent and teacher are both being polite, and signaling a desire for future encounters.
It is polite to criticize the members of one own's in-group when speaking to an out-group member, and polite to praise another's out-group. This signifies a desire to have a productive relationship with the out-group. The child is obviously a member of the parent's in-group when speaking with the teacher; no one would assume that the parent's admission of faults actually threatens that status.
This provides both an opportunity for the parent to humble oneself (through one's in-group) before the teacher and defer to the teacher's expertise, while allowing the teacher to show sympathy and concern for the parent and child.
It's clearly signaling, but in no way does it represent parent vs. kid. Parent and kid are part of the same inseparable in-group.
I often leave P/T conferences frustrated because the teacher will not give any concrete information about my child. The teachers have a habit of speaking in code using educational jargon to avoid any overtly negative comments. "Your daughter might benefit from cross-discipline exercises that focus on differentiated instruction." Me: "Are you saying that my daughter is having trouble in a traditional classroom?" Teacher: "Not at all. She is a great student. It is a pleasure to have her in my classroom. I just think she would benefit from differentiated instruction."
It's not the parents fault. Most just want an honest assessment and a strategy to get the best results.
Parents display a lack of bias in assessing their kids academic abilities. Overcoming Bias reports these findings as damning for the parents. Odd.
Our oldest son's 2nd grade teacher would probably say that about my wife and I.
But, since our son's next two teachers didn't have nearly the problems with our son, we still think it was largely an oil and water issue between our son (and us) and the teacher.
I was done with the teacher when what she told me in a face-to-face meeting was the polar opposite to a comment on our son's report card a few weeks later.
If I was completely confused by the teacher, I can't imagine how bad it was for our then 7yo son.
Is there anything in the study that says the parent are complaining about unrelated negative features of the child? Comment like "Timmy isn't great at sharing" can be very relevant to school even if it's not strictly academic.
I dunno, people get pretty nasty when their physicians tell them their children are technically obese.
I think an altruist parent would check for what specifics were behind the teacher's evaluation, discuss it if the child's behavior in school is significantly different from their behavior at home, and not complain about unrelated negative features of the child.
This is interesting, considering that I've seen teachers complaining about parents reflexively defending their kids.
Maybe that's relatively rare, but so extremely annoying for the teacher that it gets talked about. Also, it fits neatly into the cultural narrative about huge amounts of trouble caused by overindulgent parents.
I don't get the "throwing the kid under the bus" part.
Every kid has strengths. Every kid has areas of improvement.
My oldest son is very smart. But, he also needs to work on restraint when he's frustrated and following directions when he say needs to stop reading a book he really wants to keep reading and the teacher needs him to transition to working on something else, like math.
Should I not talk about the things he needs to work on?
I think it's natural to focus more on areas that need improvement than the things that are going great in things like a parent-teacher conference.
What would a parent-teacher conference look like in which the parent acted like a perfect altruist? I doubt it would be simply praising the child, so in what ways would it differ from what we observe?
Also, the interaction depends strongly on the status of the parents. Low-status parents tend to be more critical and also more likely to agree with the teacher, especially about negative assessments of the student. High-status parents are quicker to defend their children and to contradict the teacher's (negative) assessments.
What about when it comes to appearance?
We should also ding parents for telling pediatricians what is wrong with their kids. How unsupportive can you be!