Educators spend 4 years in college learning how to be effective teachers. However, they are never really taught how to handle situations with difficult or upset parents. Here are a few tried and true tips for teachers when dealing with a difficult parent of a student.
The most important thing you can do is listen. Let the parent share first and don’t interrupt. Parents deserve to be heard, even if you feel that their concerns are ill-founded.
Acknowledge Parent Concerns
Let parents know you are aware of their specific concerns, regardless of your feelings on the issue. When you and the parent are “on the same page,” you can begin to work together toward a remedy.
Face-To-Face Meetings Are Best
Talk to parents in person. Meeting parents face-to-face is recommended, but a phone call will do if necessary. Speaking in person allows both parent and teacher to focus solely on the issue at hand. It is also good to avoid emails. The tone in an email can be easily misinterpreted and cause unnecessary confusion and frustration.
Remain calm, polite, and professional when interacting with an upset parent. When a parent lashes out, it is simply a sign of their frustration. Calmly remind the parent that you have their student’s best interests in mind. If the parent becomes belligerent or aggressive, ask to continue the meeting another time. It’s okay to be an advocate for yourself if you are feeling uncomfortable or unsafe. If you think a parent meeting might get nasty, ask your administrator to attend.
Keep A Paper Trail
Document everything! Keep track of student behaviors and consequences, and parent communications. The “evidence” will speak for itself if necessary.
Stick To The Facts
It may be difficult, but you should keep your own opinions and emotions at bay. Dragging your feelings into the situation will not help the student. Your focus should remain on the student and the concerns you have. What facts will use? Test scores? Behavior log? Grade book?
Use Everyday Language
Don’t bombard parents with education lingo and acronyms that they may not understand. Instead, use everyday language, or provide explanations. You don’t want an already upset parent to become frustrated.
Show the parents that you genuinely care about their student. Provide some examples of the student’s strengths, or positives. By doing this, you demonstrate that you have built a strong relationship with their student.
* If you find yourself dealing with a parent who becomes abusive, or poses a threat of danger to you or the student, please immediately contact your administrator, local police, or your NEA representative.
How To Handle Difficult Parent: Proven Solutions for Teachers by Suzanne Capek Tingley
Dealing With Difficult Parents by Todd Whitaker & Douglas J. Fiore