Update: In Defense of My Children

I want to thank all of you who reached out to me via email, Twitter, Facebook, and this blog with your words of advice in response to my previous post—I was humbled by the response. The overwhelming consensus was that something needed to be done—something I knew and yet wasn’t certain of how to proceed. So, in the end, in my non-confrontational way, I decided to send an email directly to the principal explaining the situation. Here is what I wrote:

I wanted to talk with you about a concern we have been having recently regarding lunchtime. Last week, I received a call from the school nurse telling me that my son had come to see her during recess. He had been complaining of a cough, but she soon discovered that he was actually trying to hold back tears. He told her that he had gotten in trouble during lunch and was told to sit on the stage. He was devastated, and deeply embarrassed—he didn’t want to “face his teacher or friends.” The nurse reassured him, and was able to return him to class a short time later. My daughter also came home from school that day in tears as she told me how she had witnessed her brother getting in trouble during lunch. As you probably know, both of my children are very respectful, and follow rules to the extreme. They are also deeply sensitive and care (sometimes too much) about what others think of them. That day at lunch, my son had brought a football to school to use during recess. He accidentally dropped the ball on the floor, and when he went to pick it up, he was yelled at by one of the lunch volunteers. When he was sitting on the stage, he started to cry, so my daughter went to check on him (she was volunteering for lunch-bunch that day), she too was yelled at and told “get away from him.”

Yesterday, my son came home and told me that he “hated school”—words I have never before heard said by either of my children. He loves school, he loves to learn, and he loves his friends, and after he admitted to those things, he told me that he was just so nervous about going to lunch he couldn’t think about anything else. He also told me that he no longer talks during lunch, as is too afraid he is going to get punished.

I understand that lunch-time must be a period of heightened stress for teachers and volunteers, as kids have a tendency to act up when they are all together. I have no issue with discipline when needed, however I do have an issue with an adult yelling at any child—not just my own. I also think that it would be incredibly helpful—not just to my son, but to all of the younger children—to have a meeting to go over lunch-room rules. Since my son is only in 1st grade, he learns from the older kids and is honestly confused as to how to behave. This is one of the main reasons he is so anxious about going to school now. He is afraid that he will do something wrong, and not even realize it (he was also told to sit on the stage by the same volunteer when he went to the bathroom during lunch without asking—something he sees many of the children doing, but didn’t realize it was actually a rule to ask). In addition to talking with the children, I think it would be necessary if those who are there during lunch would also participate so that the kids can ask questions about what to do—and what not to do—and everyone can be on the same page.

I wrestled with saying something to you about this, but in the end, I decided that I needed to be my son’s advocate, and I hope that my words are more beneficial than critical.

I received a response a short time later, asking me to come in to speak with him. Maybe it’s my years at Catholic school, but I still get a bit anxious when being asked to come to the principal’s office. So, when I arrived a few hours later, I was relieved by his initial words: I want to tell how impressed I am with your son. He went on to explain that he had met with him earlier in the day, and talked with him about what had happened. He told me of their conversation, how he had proposed a similar solution to my son regarding the explanation of the rules—not just for him but for all the younger students. The principal said that my son expressed himself extremely well for someone so young, and he was especially struck by what my son told him at the end of their discussion: “I’m so glad you are doing something about this.”

The most important thing I took away from this whole experience is that I was able to show my son—through my actions and not just my words—how to stand up for yourself—and or for others. The fact that the principal wanted to hear my son’s point of view, showed him the importance of speaking up. I also learned that this blog is more than a place for me to capture my words of advice for my daughter, it is a place for me to voice my concerns, worries, fears, and hopes for my children—and to receive incredible words of advice back from you. Thank you!

Published by Erin Rehill

A few years ago, my then eight-year-old daughter told me that she wished I could write down all the things I told her so that she wouldn’t forget them when she got older. In that moment, my daughter gave me such a sense of validation, something I hadn’t really experienced in that way. As parents, we don’t often receive confirmation from our children that we are doing a good job, or that we even know what we are talking about. Since that time, I’ve started to pay more attention to the things I tell her, often thinking to myself “Will she remember this when she is older?” So, this is for her, my words of advice to be read, thought about, laughed at, and maybe even used, when she is older.

Join the Conversation


  1. Erin, this update brought tears to my eyes. So impressed with you, and your son! You must be so proud of him. Your response was perfect. I’m going to share this with friends. By the way, I love your blog! Keep writing 🙂

  2. Clapping over here from the sidelines (for you, for how you’ve raised your children, for the way you STOOD UP FOR YOUR KIDS despite your own squeamishness) and I’m also giving you a standing ovation. Oh yes I am.
    PS: So what happened – did he take the bitch-mom out? I need to know. (-:

  3. I’m so glad the principal took your email seriously and handled it so well. I worry so much about my Kindergartner having a run-in with the wrong person (or more often, people) at school and seeing his experience ruined. I’ve seen teachers (not his own, luckily) YELLING at them to “stop dancing” at recess. Really? At recess? Should we ever be telling children to stop dancing at recess? I’m sure I don’t understand the stress of being responsible for so many youngsters but it really felt like someone was out there popping their balloons.

  4. Woooohoooo!!! Good for you, I’m so glad you were there to be a great advocate for your son. Now he is learning how to handle confrontation as well, from your example 🙂

  5. I’m horrified that this happened in the first place but you handled it beautifully; great example for your kiddos.

  6. I’m always so impressed when I read or hear about advocacy for the needs or our children, and doubly so when that advocacy is thoughtful and includes not just how other children might be affected, but the offender, as well. I think you dealt with this in such a wonderful way – I hope I can do the same when faced with a similar situation!

  7. I’m so glad that you were able to do something and get results. Your letter is extremely well-spoken and showed that you were a concerned parent as opposed to a parent who was just being critical. I’m so happy that your son was able to get the assurance that he needed as well. Hopefully things will truly improve now!

  8. What a respectful letter. As a teacher, I readily admit that we often make mistakes, but rarely get such a well thought out letter as yours bringing them to our attention. Well done, and YES, a great lesson for your son!!

  9. That is a fantastic outcome. And nothing is better than hearing an independent adult compliment your child! So glad things worked out. I hope the lunchtime routine gets better!

  10. Yay for positive results! It sounds like the principal handled the situation very well. Glad it worked out.

  11. I can imagine this was a challenging experience for your children (and you) but I think they will take away so much: self-advocacy, respect, courage…they will be stronger people for it. Great job! I’m glad you wrote a follow-up.

  12. oh, I am so glad that this was the outcome!!! with all of this, I think the best is that you were respectful and calm about expressing your concerns. that gives weight to your argument. great job!

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