Tuesday, October 4, 2011

10 Tips for Confronting Difficult Parents

ConfrontationRecently I had a colleague who had to deal with a difficult parent and both ended up being upset. I thought about some tips that have helped me deal with difficult interactions with parents and here they are:

1. Remember that these parents/guardians care about their child which may cause them to become emotional. Do not take this personal and be glad that they care.

2. Remember the goal is to work together to help the student be successful. This is a good thing to state right at the beginning to help both the teacher and the parent start on the same page. Make the parent feel valued and an important part of the team.

3. Try to imagine that this is your child and you are the parent. How would the words coming out of your mouth affect you if you were the parent?

4. Try to state facts and leave feelings and emotions out of it telling about something that happened.

5. Do not put the parent on the defensive.

6. Don’t put the blame anywhere. Instead remember the object of the meeting is to find some solutions.

7. Before the meeting, if you have some problems with the student, try to think of some possible solutions to offer. Don’t go in a meeting bashing the student without any positives. Remember you are the professional who was trained to help students. Even write a list down if necessary.

8. Ask the parent for input. Ask if there is something that is going on to cause the behavior. Ask the parent if this happens at home and what they do in this situation. Ask if the audience to the behavior is the same (are there almost the same amount of peers or adults when this occurs). This might help the parent see the situation more clearly.

9. If a plan for the students is developed, discuss how it will be evaluated and reviewed. Assure the parent that you will keep them notified how the plan is working and then make sure you follow up on this.

10. Have a plan in case the meeting does not go well and you need to end it abruptly. Plan out what you will say and have a plan of action. Hopefully you won’t need to do this but it is better to be prepared.

What other suggestions do you have? Please share!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Image: 'Warriors ...'


Molly said...

Great tips, difficult parents can be the hardest part of teaching.

Ian Anderson said...

Wow, you must be reading my mind, or my school schedule...we have parent/teacher conferences tonight!

Thanks for the tips!

Ian Anderson said...

Wow, you must be reading my mind, or my school schedule - we have parent/teacher conferences tonight!

Thanks for the tips!

Anonymous said...

Very sensible ideas! Thanks for sharing Pat! I haven't had to deal with any difficult parent yet, but I will keep your suggestions in mind just in case. Lucky me apparently! Kisses and hugs!

loonyhiker said...

@Molly Glad you found them useful!

@Man O'Clay: Good luck tonight. I hope all goes well.

@sabridv: You are indeed lucky and hope it stays that way! :)

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this piece by Ron Clark on CNN (What teachers really want to tell parents. It got a lot of rebuttal remarks from parents. My wife is a teacher and I know that a lot of parents are out to lunch, but a lot of teachers are too.

I think that most important focus of your piece is to get into the parent's head. This is a critical communication skill. You can literally see the confusion or fear or anger in the other person's eyes and body if you pay attention. You can see them building up a rage or a defense, and when you see that you have to deal with it, dismantle it, let it slip away. Most people are not like judges and can't evaluate facts without emotion, so facts might be sweetened a little in favor of the child, but obvious so that the parent is gratful that you're offering a bit of charity yet at the same time realizes that the issue is real. Finally, you point about coming with a solution is perfect. Even if you are not sure that the solution can work, at least there will be something on the table to discuss. Coming with only a problem makes the discussion much worse for the receiver of the criticism ... not only do they get told that their progeny is imperfect, they get asked on the spot for a solution they may not be capable of coming up with.

Great post for a common problem!

loonyhiker said...

@Anonymous Thanks for such a wonderful comment! I agree, there are crazies on both sides of the fence. But unless we see ourselves as a team, instead of "us vs. them", it will be hard to work towards a solution. It is not impossible but much harder and such a waste of valuable time and energy. I had a wonderful principal who always said, I don't mind if you come to the table with a problem, but come with a possible solution. Otherwise, it is just a complaining session that usually is not productive. I try to keep that in mind when I go to meetings.

AutifK said...

Let me try to paint a situation for you. You have a student with behavior problems. You aren't able to reform those behaviors in class, but you suspect that having the parent talk with the child would influence that child's behavior. But, the parent basically won't accept what you say about his/her child's behavior. What do you do?

loonyhiker said...

@Autifk First I would get permission from my administration and parents to videotape the child. I usually start off the year with the camera in the corner and their is black tape over the record light. Once students get used to it in the class, they tend to ignore it. Then when I recorded the behavior, I would show the parent the tape. This would help the parent see the actual behaviors. Before showing the parent though, I would emphasize that we are a team and how we want to help the child be successful. We are not trying to shame or blame anyone. Don't forget to have some solutions ready to help change the behavior.

Liana (blog) said...

I have put links on my blog to your website because I'm participating in a thing called the student blogging challenge. For this task we have to find websites on the thing we want to learn about and I want to learn about teaching. Thanks for the helpful information! My blog is http://lolblog.edublogs.org
You can visit if you would like.

From LOL(Liana)

jfb57 said...

I found this really interesting so have shared it here! http://www.theheadsoffice.co.uk/difficult-parents-how-to-deal-with-them/

loonyhiker said...

@jfb57 Thanks for sharing that link!