Dealing with Difficult Parents
Effectively Is Truly An Art!!

Dealing with difficult parents and their complaints about one or more aspects of their child's education is a normal expectation for all teachers.

How to deal with difficult parents is a common and frequent question that I get from many of my student teachers.

The question doesn't surprise me because today in education, parents believe their child, and it's all the teacher's fault. This belief is the main source of parent complaints.

First thing you need to do is respond quickly; you can't ignore the situation.

But, there are a few things you need to check out before dealing with difficult parents to resolve the complaint:

1. If possible, check with the student's last teacher to see what the parents are like. Maybe they are like that with every teacher.

2. Discuss the issue with your administration (principal,V.P., etc.) to give them a heads up. Don't be embarrassed or ashamed.

3. Look up the student's previous year's report card to see how they did and what comments were made.

4. If you are asked by a student to call his/her parents, try to find out in advance why parents want you to call.

5. Before you do call or meet the parents, know what you are going to say (even write down some pointers).

When you do call the parents keep these 8 pointers in mind:

1. Call during recess, make it brief and to the point. I never called from home. That's my own personal time.

2. Never put parents on the defensive.

3. Parents may feel that they have the upper hand, but know that you do, because you know your students, their work habits and perhaps some facts about the parent(s) and how to handle them.

4. Make sure you are calm and relaxed and speak with a smile on your face (Sounds weird but it is most effective - it lessens your stress). If you need to, scream only after hanging up the phone. (Make sure no students are around)

5. If need be, have their child with you on speaker phone. Its very effective, but let the parent know in advance.

6. If the student is having difficulty, explain that you are always available to help if you know there's a problem, but the student must be accountable as well and let you know. Suggest that you may modify the child's work if necessary.

7. End the conversation on a positive note.

8. If you say you are going to do something, do it.

The trick is to have the parent eating out of your hand by the end of the phone call. End by saying something to the effect of "Thank you Mrs./Mr. .... for bringing this to my attention. I wish all my parents were that concerned about their child's progress. I've taken enough of your time but I'll call you in one week to see how things are going" (make sure you do call).

Dealing with difficult parents is a true art and you will develop your own form and style. Try my suggestions and I'd love to hear your methods as well.

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