Ronda Kaysen: It was "Helicopter Parents Gone Wild" at one Brooklyn, N.Y., preschool this past school year. In the end, the head teacher sent out a missive telling brazen parents, "In my entire 12 years of teaching, I have never experienced such an ineffective and distressing chain of events."
The "chain of events" that transpired at Park Slope's Old First Nursery School -- one of the oldest cooperative preschools in the city -- centered around the issue of misbehaving 4-year-olds.
According to the New York Times' City Room blog, three children in the 15-student class were engaging in such outlandish acts as taunting, hitting, pushing and biting their classmates. At the request of parents, an outside observer was brought in -- who found the classroom to be normal and the teachers to be in control.
But expert opinion didn't appease the angry parents, who took the issue to the greater parent community and insisted that the troublemakers be sent home.
The Times reported that, as parents got more and more enraged by babes behaving badly, external evaluations were conducted, a session with a mediator took place (during which a parent wielding a banjo suggested a new school song) and a group of parents went so far as to try to implement a "no-tolerance policy toward aggressive behavior."
In a heated e-mail exchange with other parents, the parents of one child wrote, "As the parents of a child who has been hit, knocked down, spit at, bitten and emotionally taunted throughout the year, we have to ask ourselves, what on earth is so wrong with a child being sent home when they have repeatedly hurt other children?" The parents added that "seeing a child sent home" would make their daughter "feel safe about going to school."
As the mother of a preschooler, I think this brouhaha seems so over-the-top. I mean, we're talking about 3- and 4-year-olds here. They're not exactly the most socialized bunch of citizens around.
Isn't the point of preschool to teach kids how to get along with others? Part of learning to play with other people is learning how to deal with aggressive kids. For the misbehavers, spending time with other children helps them learn that it's not a great idea to smack their friends.
It seems to me like this bunch of parents (who can afford to shell out nearly ten grand a year for preschool) is having a hard time facing the reality that they can't protect their kids from every conflict that befalls them, and that, from time to time, their precious progeny will get into a tussle or two.