How to Deal With Difficult Parents
Reviewed by Jon Konen, District Superintendent
Tips for Teachers
As most people who work in the field of education understand, dealing with difficult parents at school can be a tricky subject. There are many different ways teachers need to respond to different situations, and using good judgment is more important than ever.
The issues facing students today, particularly with social media, school violence, bullying, and many other sensitive topics, make the role of educators more important than ever. Sometimes, parents can present challenges for teachers that require tactful measures to resolve.
Here are six ways teachers can be more effective at dealing with difficult parents in school…
- Understand there are different types of difficult parents. Yes, parents, just like children, come in all different forms. They will have different personalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and other differences, particularly with how they communicate with you and their child.
There will be parents who are over-involved, and those who are absent altogether. If you feel your time is being sucked by one parent in particular, try to find ways to set up scheduled communication that makes you both feel comfortable. Setting boundaries can be tricky, so always use diplomacy and try to resolve any issues as quickly as possible that does warrant concern on the part of the parent.
Likewise, some parents simply work too much to make it to every meeting. Try to be flexible and conduct phone calls at scheduled times that work better for them.
- Keep good records. This is essential, since there are subjective aspects to every teaching role, no matter how fair we try to make the world our children learn in. That’s why it is important to keep good records of the interactions that are relevant to your communication with children’s parents – particularly when there are sensitive situations involved.
- Set expectations from day one. Outline how processes for grading, discipline, and parent/teacher/student communication will be conducted throughout the year. This will help set the boundaries that we mentioned in the first point.
- Know when to think and listen. People who are being driven by emotions during a situation sometimes need to vent. If you try to be combative or escalate your own temper, you could end up saying something unprofessional and wind up in trouble.
Remember, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard no matter how out of hand a situation gets. You can always listen and promise to respond once you have looked into their concern or spoken with your principal.
- Try to find good in the bad. When you are starting to address a difficult situation, try to begin the conversation with a compliment, or by pointing out something positive about their child. You never know why a parent is stressed out or frustrated, or what their own level of self-esteem may be. Maybe they just need to know their child isn’t being judged unfairly or looked down on.
- Talk to your peers. Dealing with difficult parents as a teacher is something that every teacher deals with. If you are having trouble getting through to a child, talk to other teachers that have dealt with that student and their parents. Maybe you are missing a piece of the puzzle that can help you figure out how to handle difficult people more effectively.
How teachers can deal with difficult parents is a topic that won’t be going away any time soon. It has been reported about in psychology magazines, teaching magazines, and is relevant to viral news stories. Don’t be the next teacher caught on tape saying or doing something you might regret.
Remember, your students’ education and well-being should always be at the forefront of your concern, and collaborating with parents, even the difficult ones, is in a child’s best interest.
Do you have tips for helping teachers deal with difficult parents? If so, add them as you share this article!