Teachers Are Revealing Parenting 'Red Flags' They Notice Right Away When Meeting A Parent Or A Kid For The First Time

"It tells me that the parents don't care."

Since teachers interact with kids and parents fairly often, they probably come in contact with thousands of people with good (and not-so-great) personalities and behaviors.

So I became curious and asked the BuzzFeed Community: “Teachers, what are the automatic tell-tale signs that a parent or kid’s behavior exhibits ‘red flags’ parenting styles?” Hundreds of teachers provided their expertise and experience on the matter. Here’s what they had to say below:

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"I've worked with kids in a variety of settings (i.e. classroom and private childcare), and one of the biggest 'this is gonna be rough' red flags for me is any conversation in which a parent starts with the words 'We don't believe in...' This is almost always a parent who is more attached to their parenting philosophy than they are the realities of their child, and they always have a kid who needs something they're not giving."

"'We don't believe in bedtimes.' That's great, but your kid is massively sleep-deprived. 'We don't believe in limiting junk food.' That's great, but your kid is constipated from a steady diet of Goldfish crackers and nothing else. 'We believe in only using natural products.' That's great, but your kid's diaper rash isn't responding to your all-natural organic cream, and you need to see a doctor. It's great to have parenting ideals, but your child's needs have to come first."


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"I was a teacher for 15 years, and I still work in schools, but now, I’m a school behavior specialist. I help kids who need behavior management plans, and I respond to kids in crisis or conflict. There are a lot of parenting red flags that I see, but the biggest one, especially for young kids, is when they have no idea how to self-soothe or find comfort when upset. When given the option to come to a calm down room or a counselor’s office to talk about their feelings, there are some kids who have no idea how to do that! I’ll ask them how they calm down at home, and always, without fail, they’ll tell me that mom or dad lets them watch TV or go on a device when they’re sad or mad. Of course, devices have their place, but they should never replace human connection after strong emotional events. It’s happening more and more that that’s the case, and then these very young children have no idea how to process their emotions."
—Anonymous, Behavior Specialist, Maryland
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"Elementary teacher here. Parent communication is super important with the little people. When a parent responds to ZERO of my attempted communication or gives me a number that is out of service (which happens ALL the time) is a huge red flag. It’ll most likely be that way the entire year, no matter what is going on with their student. To me, that means they see school/teachers as free childcare and usually don’t care about the rest (like the well-being or education of their child)."

—Natalie, 2nd grade teacher, Oklahoma

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"A major red flag is when parents 'laugh off' or downplay a bad behavior their child displays but get outraged when another child does the same behavior to their child. I had a boy in my class who would hit, bite, kick, and throw things at other kids. It got to the point where we needed to put him on a BSP (Behavior Support Plan). His parents refused to acknowledge how bad things were. I now have his sister in my class, and she displays the exact same behavior. She bit another child on the face and broke the skin, causing the child to bleed. The dad laughed when being told about it. The following day, the sister hit another child, and the other child hit her back, leaving a red mark. The dad was furious and demanded the other child be put in another room. That type of behavior from parents just breeds bullies, and lack of accountability is such a bad example."
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"I’ve been a teacher for 12 years. One year in teaching second grade, I had a boy who would exhibit desired/positive behavior maybe 25% of the time and the rest of the time being defiant and throwing himself on the floor screaming and crying, which was usually the result of him not getting his way in some shape or form. I tried so many things to help him, like a behavior chart on his desk with a reward system or giving positive notes at home. Those things only seemed to help slightly. Then, parent-teacher conferences came. I knew his parents were divorced, and he had to split his time with both. Also, both parents worked, and he was a middle child."

"Watching his interactions with his mom and siblings during our conference, it finally dawned on me that he was just not getting any positive attention or affection at home. And I suddenly felt so sad for him. He was really into video games, and I noticed he always wanted to talk to me about them at school. So, I started making it a point to be interested in this any time he wanted to talk. We also continued with his behavior chart, and soon, the tantrums stopped completely. I was able to develop a close and trusting relationship with him just by observing that his parents couldn’t give him the attention he needed."

—Julie, Elementary Teacher, Arizona

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"I’m a high school teacher, and the biggest issue I have is when seniors barely come to class anymore, and when I try to talk to their parents about the attendance issues, I get told, 'Attendance only matters to the school because that’s how you get paid.' No, sorry, attendance matters because little Johnny is failing all of his classes because he’s never here. Just because your kid is a senior doesn’t mean they’ve graduated high school."
—H. Garcia, Fine arts teacher & academic advisor, Texas
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"High school teacher here. When the student never comes directly to me to discuss an issue and instead, the parents 'fight their battles' for them. Young adults desperately need to learn how to handle disagreements/confrontations productively. Yes, it can be difficult to go to someone in authority and question something (like a grade on an assignment). However, learning how to positively handle those types of situations is an imperative life skill. Mom and Dad can’t call your boss when you’re 25 and dispute your performance review for you."
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"I teach preschool, and the downplaying/covering up of sickness drives me nuts. They will 'forget' to tell us someone in their household has COVID, and then, of course, everyone gets it. Their child will have a fever in the morning, so they give them Tylenol and then act surprised a few hours later when we call and say their kid has a fever and needs to go home (because the meds wore off). Kids will straight up tell us they threw up in the car on the way to school, but when they do it again and have to go home, parents are always shocked."
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"A major red flag is when the parents immediately get angry and start yelling/blaming me if I tell them their child seems to be struggling in a certain subject and offer support. I told the parent of one of my first-grade students that I noticed her child was struggling in math and offered additional support to help the child stay on track toward grade level. The parent angrily responded with, 'My child has been in daycare, pre-k, and kindergarten, and never has any teacher ever said she was bad at math!' They even added that their child is 'used to being taught in a structured classroom with quality teaching,' implying I was not providing that."
"If the immediate response to a teacher's concern is to completely ignore what the teacher says and throw insults, you know it's not going to be a productive relationship with the parent, and the kid may ultimately not get what they need due to parental pride and entitlement."
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"A girl of 14 years of age in my class was painfully anxious before the annual Parent-Teacher meeting. I had no issues with her, and she had really good grades and was always interactive in class. I met the mother who had the most judgmental and Karen vibe about her. She talked me down and refused to believe that her daughter was an excellent student and was very vibrant in the class. I could clearly see the girl losing all her confidence while she was with her mom and understood the situation right away. On Monday, when I had the girl again, I told her that no one could take away her light and she would always shine if she believed. I guess she believed this because she now has a very good income-earning job with a good company."
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'They're so good at school, they're gonna be a *enter prestigious occupation.*' I taught high school biology for gifted students, and I never would've guessed the absurd amount of expectation parents place on their kids if they're gifted. I've seen kids not even 16 years old begging me to give them another chance to change a score from 85(!) because 'my parents want me to be a famous physicist.' Give your gifted kids a break! They may be smart, but they're still kids!"
"It also sets them up for a difficult time in the future because they expect themselves to be perfect, and it's not possible to be perfect all the time without burning out. I saw a lot of formerly gifted kids stall out in college because of the pressure they and their parents put on themselves to be top of the class. The problem is, there's limited space up there. You can be a great student, get good grades, turn in good work, and still be middle of the pack."
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"One that I distinctly remember is a high school male having behavior issues early on in the term, and the mother, after discussing possible strategies to help him better manage his emotions, told me, 'Why don’t you discipline him for me? I don’t want to be the bad guy.' Nope, especially since it was year one of my teaching career."
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"When they smell like an ashtray. This tells me that the grown-ups don't care to protect their child from things that may endanger them. In my experience, kids who smell strongly of cigarette smoke tend to get sick a lot, and I have trouble getting parental support (from studying vocabulary words to signing permission forms to behavior issues). I've also noticed that these kids tend to use more inappropriate language and are exposed to television and media content that is too mature for their age."
—Anonymous, Elementary Teacher, Tennessee
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"Overly affectionate boy moms give me the ick and are a major red flag. A mom in my school calls their son Daddy, and he gets away with everything. It’s always everyone else’s fault."
—Maddie, Elementary teacher, Baltimore
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"We can tell if you use a screen as a babysitter for your child. Screen kiddos lose their minds when it’s time to put it up. Then you put them in the car in the afternoon, and a tablet is waiting for them immediately upon pickup, or they tell you how they stayed up all night playing video games."
—Anonymous, Special Education Elementary, Georgia

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