With parent conferences just around the corner for many schools, we thought this would be a timely article for you. Enjoy! ~EMP
Being a teacher comes with many responsibilities, among them the task of dealing with unhappy parents. While many parents are willing to bend over backwards and work with the teacher to help a child succeed, some parents come off as abrasive and difficult to communicate with. There are three helpful tips that teachers can use to communicate effectively with angry parents and to begin redirecting the parents to focus on a solution.
1. Let the Parents Yell Out Their Frustrations. While no one wants to be yelled at, it is often a good idea to allow a parent to vent until he or she has had a chance to yell out his or her frustrations. During this process, it is important for the teacher to remember healthy boundaries. It is never okay to allow a parent to become verbally abusive or threatening during a parent-teacher meeting.
As long as the parent is not threatening or abusive, when the teacher gives the parent an opportunity to verbally express frustrations, then the teacher will have a prime opportunity to begin effectively communicating with the parent once the parent is finished with a verbal rant. Listening is a key factor for the teacher when the parent is venting. By practicing good listening skills and remaining attentive you make the parent feel heard, and this will help to diffuse the parent’s anger. Practicing good listening skills will also help the teacher to identify what the real problem is, and this can lead to working on a healthy and effective solution.
2. Ask the parents to elaborate on their issues. Once the parent is finished venting, begin the next few sentences with open-ended questions. Ask the parents to tell you more so that you can get a clearer handle on the source of their problem. In addition to these questions enlightening the teacher more, these questions will also help to calm the parent by making the parent feel heard and validated.
No parent wants to talk to a teacher and then feel as if the teacher does not understand why the parent is upset. When the teacher asks questions and encourages the parent to speak more, the parent will feel as if the teacher truly cares. This is a huge positive step a teacher can take to begin helping the parent to calm down and to find a solution to the issue.
The National Education Association NEA recommends teachers document any problems or issues with the child before speaking to the parent. This will help prepare the teacher to ask the right questions to help the parent identify if there are any common problems with the child that occur both at school as well as at home. This may help the parent to realize there are more actions he or she can take in order to promote better behaviors and better learning abilities in the student.
3. Once the parent has vented and the teacher has asked appropriate questions regarding the situation at hand, it is time for the teacher to inform the parent about the situation. Telling the parent how it is in a direct and considerate manner will help the teacher to reach the parent through effective means of communication.
Byline: This article was composed by Stephanie Katsopolus, an elementary school teacher in Astoria, Oregon. She also dabbles in freelance writing.
I took a video course a while back called, “Parents on Your Side.” It was one of the best courses I took with so much great info. (It’s a book too by Lee Canter, and might be worth checking out.)
One thing the course taught me was that if a parent is really flying off the handle bars is to diffuse the situation right away. For a parent who is beyond a reasonable conversation or makes an unscheduled visit:
1. Be sensitive to their concern by telling them you can see they are very upset or understand their concern.
2. Let the parent know their concerns are too important to discuss at this time. (maybe you only scheduled 15 min or you didn’t expect the parent to come.)
3. Set a time to meet and discuss the problem.
4. Get administrative help or ask a colleague to be present at the meeting.
I’ve had to use these tactics in the past and, boy did they save me.
Like Stephanie mentioned, parents just want to be heard and we need to work with them to do what’s best for their child.