Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Running an Investigation

It happened again. Your youngster came home from school upset, or telling a story that made you angry. You want revenge on school staff members, or possibly another child, because you felt your little one had suffered an injustice.

Before you make that irate phone call, or send a hate-filled email, you need to stop, take a breath, and conduct a little investigation.

Step One: Get yourself under control.

Remember that there are two sides to every story. What you have been told may be an exaggeration or misunderstanding. Take a step back and be prepared to discover what really happened.

Step Two: Gather information.

Get all the details you can from the child, including what happened before and after the incident. For example, if the youngster was punished, asked what he or she did earlier that hour. Ask about the history--is there an ongoing conflict? Watch for phrases that indicate possible misunderstandings or deception, such as:
  • I tried that (coping strategy or alternate behavior you suggested), and it didn't work. 
  • He (she) always.....
  • The (authority figure) always sides with....
  • I didn't do anything.....
  • I only.....
  • If they (behavior), then I get to (behavior) back.
  • It's not my fault/I can't help it. 
Step Three: Gather more information.

You may have access to witnesses (friends), but you also need to speak to the teacher or other school authorities to hear details your child may have misunderstood or of which he or she may not be aware. Don't approach them with a confrontational attitude. Just explain that you don't understand the situation and are seeking more information.

Step Four: Have a meeting. 

Get all the involved parties face-to-face, if possible. If the problem involves another child, this may not be possible. But you can meet with the staff members to work on a solution together. Much better than trying to work through emails. This is the time to clear everything up without being accusatory.

Step Five: Explain to your child.

This is the hardest part. You need to explain fully both sides of the problem and help them understand the appropriate solution. If an apology is required, this is the time to rehearse. Remember that the ability to collaborate with others and solve problems is an important life skill.

 Step Six: Let it go.

You need to move on and forgive others. Allow everyone a fresh start. After all, that's what you would want for a member of your family.