There are areas of life where it is important to know what questions
to ask in order to avoid problems, disappointments and in some cases disasters.
Let us start with schools. Suppose your child comes home
with a report card indicating that he is failing a subject.
Don’t forget to ask the school what diagnostic tests will be
given in order to pinpoint the problem. Further, don’t forget to
ask what changes will be made in his program based on the test
If at a parent conference, the teacher says your child is
failing because he is just plain lazy. Don’t forget to ask her
to describe the behavior that qualifies labeling your child as
“lazy”. One person’s definition of “lazy” may not be another’s.
In addition, labels are abstract concepts whereas descriptions of
behavior are concrete. You can change behavior, but abstract
labels do not change and tend to stick. In this vein, don’t
forget to ask to see your child’s cumulative record folder before
it is sent on to middle or high school. Read the contents to
ascertain if your child has been labeled. If so, ask that the
labels be removed.
If you are given achievement test results which indicate
that your child is not up to grade level by the end of second
grade, don’t forget to ask what happens in third grade if he
cannot read the science, social studies and math text books which
are at third grade level. Don’t forget to ask what concrete
programs are available and can immediately be put in place to
help your child to be successful in the next grade. Don’t
forget to ask your school’s policy on social promotions.
The school counselor calls and tells you that your child has
Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity and needs to see a
doctor to be put on ritalin. Don’t forget to ask to have a
meeting with the Child Study Team and bring somebody with you who
is knowledgeable and who can give you support so that you are not
overwhelmed or outnumbered. Don’t forget to ask the team to
describe the behavior that qualifies for that label. Don’t
forget to ask what steps the school has taken or is willing to
take in order for your child to succeed with or without ritalin.
Don’t forget to ask what the school feels your role should be.
Don’t forget to ask for follow up meetings to assess progress or
lack of it.
The teacher recommends that your child repeat the grade.
Don’t forget to ask what changes will be made in the program so
that he will be more successful the second time around.
Don’t forget to ask for a conference with the new teacher to
tell her about your child and his learning style. Talk about
what he can do, not what he cannot do. Don’t forget to ask the
teacher to give you frequent progress reports and to ask what you
can do to help.
Your son’s birthdate is one day before the cut off date
for kindergarten. If he goes, he will be the youngest in the
class. Don’t forget to ask if the kindergarten teacher is
trained in early childhood development. Don’t forget to ask if
the curriculum is a kindergarten one or more like first grade.
Don’t forget to ask if your son is developmentally ready for an
accelerated kindergarten curriculum. If not, give him another
year before enrolling him in school.
Parents can help each other by sharing their successful
experiences in asking the right questions and their unsuccessful
experiences or disasters in not asking the right questions.