Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Parents

Association of Educators
May 14, 2012 — 1,225 views  

Dealing with frustrated, aggravated and unreasonable parents is part of every educator's job. These problems are par for the course in the world of education, and they rank among the top three stressors for teachers, principals and administrators. Parents can and do file formal complaints and lawsuits, so it's important for staff members to be prepared and act accordingly when dealing with challenging parents.

Be Empathetic
When confronted by a parent, it's easy for teachers and administrators to be reactive and shrink away from the problem or to become aggressive and act in an unprofessional manner. The best solution is to be proactive and to respond professionally. When parents are unloading their frustrations, it's imperative for teachers and administrators to keep their emotions in check. Maintaining eye contact, listening actively and responding appropriately are important when dealing with explosive parents. Remaining calm and adopting an understanding attitude are the best ways to defuse tense situations.

Be Proactive
Opening a line of communication and offering a home phone number is a wonderful way to show parents that their children have a great teacher. Although it may seem risky, most parents assume that teachers receive a large number of calls so they won't bother phoning. Challenging parents will always find a way to reach teachers at home. It pays to save them the frustration and to address problems while the situation is manageable.

Be Positive
Positive reinforcement is the best way to inspire students and parents. All schools have a system where unruly children are sent to the principal's office. Why not turn this situation around and have students see the principal for great achievements? By focusing on the positive, parents will recognize that staff members are committed to success. Plus, if anything goes wrong, teachers or principals can easily call parents and address problems too. When bringing up an issue, always preface the bad news by mentioning the student's talents.

Start a Communication File
Maintaining a record of parent-teacher communications is essential. This file should include dates, times, notes and key decisions. If a problem does arise, this information is invaluable. Teachers and staff members should review their contracts, understand their rights and learn what should be done if a challenging parent does file a complaint.

By using these effective strategies, school staff members can act appropriately and improve a situation before it escalates.

Association of Educators