I wrote recently about What to Do With the Kid Who’s Driving You Crazy, but what about the parent? You know the one I mean. The dad who thinks you have all the time in the world to give his student special treatment, the mom who can’t believe her little darling would ever deserve a detention, or the parents who just don’t seem to understand what you’re trying to do.
We can easily get frustrated with parents who just don’t seem to be on the same page. And while there are a lot of techniques we can use to better communicate with parents, the real key is our attitude.
Wait, our attitude? What about the parents’ attitude?
Unfortunately, we can’t change the parents’ attitude. We can only change ourselves. But when we change the way we think, our interactions with them will change as well, and we have a much better chance of winning them over.
So what should you do with the parent who’s driving you crazy?
1. Remember parents are ultimately responsible for their children. We as teachers love our students and want what’s best for them. Sometimes we think we know what’s best for the student, but that doesn’t change the fact that the parent is primarily responsible for their child, not us. Yes, we play a huge and important role. But we shouldn’t try to usurp the parents’ authority. Instead, we should try to push responsibility back towards them, even if they don’t necessarily want it.
2. Be humble. When we have our gloves up and ready for a fight, a fight is most likely exactly what we’ll get. Contention and drama are always a result of pride (Prov 13:10), but humility is powerful. Humility disarms people. It opens doors of communication and understanding. So don’t assume that you are right and the parent is wrong. Instead, approach each conversation humbly seeking the best resolution.
3. Seek first to understand then to be understood. This principle from Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is life-changing. When you have a conversation with a parent, start by genuinely listening to the parents’ concerns. Once you understand where the parent is coming from you’ll be better able to either explain your own reasoning or think of a better solution.
4. Think win-win. Don’t view the situation as parent versus teacher. Instead, view it as a partnership. You both have the same goal – for the child to learn and grow and be as successful as possible. Draw from this common ground and search for creative solutions that will help you accomplish this shared goal.
5. Help the parents remember you’re on the same team. Once you start thinking win-win, you’ll want to help the parents think this way as well. When a disagreement arises, remind them that you both want what’s best for their child and that you just need to figure out how to make that happen. Tell them that you want to partner with them to find the best solution. Hopefully over time this will help the parents lower their own guard, and a genuine partnership will develop.
What challenges have you faced in dealing with parents? What other attitudes or strategies have you found helpful? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Photo Credit flickr user fmgbain
Thank you for this. Starting to get the parent phone calls and this was a great comment about my attitude.
This is very helpful.
What do you do if the parent goes to your principal and never talks to you? I’ve had this happen and I was taken totally off-guard. The issue was simply a parent’s preference which I was completely unaware of since I was a new employee. The principal was fairly new as well. The whole thing seemed pretty unreasonable. The parents were young and this was their first child and the second year at the preschool.
I decided to be a stay-at-home mom after that and am just now getting back into the work force and this is my biggest fear.
That is tough. If it happens again I would talk to them (the parent) about it….and tell them you want to work together to find solutions and ask that they come to you first. I’d also ask the principal that if a parent comes to him he refer them to you (it’s always better to start a conflict resolution with the person themself anyhow so hopefully a principal with more experience would point them to you and/or help you all work it out)
I make sure to say,”I need your help.” Then go on to explain what is going on.
Oh I needed this. Thank you so much for yet another amazing article. You’re keeping me on the straight and narrow.
I somehow forgot that partnership with parents isn’t just about exchanging information, but also back-and-forth problem-solving conversations. I shouldn’t be waiting until I feel lost with an issue to involve parents in the brainstorming process!
You are right on this. After many years of teaching, I have found that this is the best approach.
Thanks for sharing.
The problem I face on a daily basis is that some of my parents have unrealistic expectations of what their child is capable of doing at present. I teach children with special needs – intellectual disabilities. So I am trying to move the students forward but because the parents won’t acknowledge where their child is currently functioning it makes it extremely difficult to communicate. We have to work together or their child can’t move forward. ???? it’s a constant struggle that I often loose sleep over. But I continue to do it everyday because it’s what’s best for the kids and I wouldn’t have any other way. It’s what God wants me to do.????