"Kids say the darndest things" is a cliche for a good reason. How many times have your kids uttered words that made you laugh because of their sheer impossibility, or cry because of their surprising poignancy — or even worry, because they might be true?
Last week for instance, during the daily drive home from preschool I asked my 28-month-old son who he'd played with that day. I went down the list of names, and to each one he replied, "No, she was sick today," or "No, he was sick today." According to Olin, 10 classmates out of 12 were sick and stayed home from school! Fortunately, I had just seen six or seven of them at pick-up, so I knew those kids were fine. But what if he said something disturbing that I couldn't verify? What if he told me he'd been spanked at school?
I fully trust that this would never happen at Olin's school, but a question came up among Circle of Moms members that got me thinking about how unreliable a child's stories can be: Is it okay for a teacher to ask your child if she or he gets spanked at home? Is it an invasion of privacy, or a safeguard?
The member who posted it shared the story of how an eczema flare-up on her 3-year-old son's bottom had led to an abuse investigation by Child Protective Service. The story goes like this: while at school, her son complained that his bottom hurt. His teacher asked whether he was being spanked at home. Like Olin and all his "ill" classmates, the boy inexplicably responded that every single person in his family spanked him. Alarmed, the teacher called CPS. End of story: the mom was eventually able to disprove accusations that she was abusing her son, but her case will remain on file for 6 months.
So Why Is It Okay for a Teacher to Pry?
My first thought (before reading her story) was, "Why would that question ever even come up?" But then I read on and began imagining all kinds of scenarios that might cause a teacher to be concerned and to wonder about what was going on at home. And if a teacher has concerns, he or she is probably obligated to ask.
My child is not, and will never be, spanked at home. I grew up in the American South, in the 70s, when "corporal punishment," as it is euphemistically called, was embraced as the discipline of the day both at home and in school. And I can tell you, unequivocally, that it does not teach a child anything except anger and shame. I also believe it promotes secrecy. But, whatever your views on spanking, wouldn't you want a teacher, whose responsibility it is to guard your child's safety every day, to ask if a concern about it arose?
The downside is that your own behavior might be called into question, as it was for the Circle of Moms member who posed the question. But a teacher who knows how to communicate with a young child will likely be able to tell the difference between a statement of fact and a tall tale. And frankly, if my son told his teacher he was being spanked at home, I would want to know this — because I would wonder if there was some fear or anxiety he was experiencing that he wasn't able to express properly. In other words, I'd be disturbed, too, even if I knew the issue wasn't spanking itself.
And what if someone else is, in fact, harming your child? Perhaps your child will reveal something you don't know yourself, that he's being hurt at home by someone other than you — a relative or babysitter.
Bringing experiences such as these into the light can only be a good thing. Even if your parenting is called into question along the way, you'll feel confident that your child's teacher not only has his best interests in mind, but that she's listening.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.