How Teachers Can Survive a School Year with Difficult Parents

Dec, 17, 2019

How Teachers Can Survive a School Year with Difficult Parents

Here and there, you’ll have those parents that give you a hard time. Sometimes they have a reputation of being difficult, and other times your personalities don’t match. One thing we have to keep in mind is, we are in the customer service business. Most parents aren’t out to make our school year miserable; they want what is best for their children. Many times we let miscommunication or misunderstandings ruin our partnerships with parents (I’m guilty of this too). If you’re having a rough time this school year with a parent, check out these tips to make the rest of the year better.

Be Positive

Although this parent may not be your favorite person to talk to, you still should make each conversation a positive one. If this is a parent of a child with discipline issues, compliment the student on their appropriate behavior frequently, no matter how small. This way, the parent doesn’t feel like you only want to speak to them when their child is misbehaving.

Also, leave the last conversation behind, especially if it wasn’t positive. Recently I’ve had a not so pleasant conversation with a parent, we didn’t agree on our issue, but I made sure our next interaction was positive.

While we are human, and parents may do things that upset us, we should try to make each interaction with parents as pleasant as possible.

Document Your Communication

Once I realize a parent is going continuously to give me a hard time, I only communicate with them via email or a communication app. I don’t call or talk to the parent face to face alone. I want proof and documentation of our interactions. Documenting your conversations saves you from the he said she said drama.

For example, I had a parent tell the principal that I didn’t let them know that I was having issues with their child. The parent forgot that I was using an app to keep her updated about her son. So, when I showed the principal that I was communicating about the student’s bad days, I also had proof that I reached out to her on good days. My principal could also see that the parent had responded to all the messages. Although I had a supportive principal, this was proof that the parent wasn’t honest.

Keep in mind, if you’re using email or an app as a way to document parent communication, the documentation goes both ways. Make sure you keep it professional. I highly recommend using a parent communication app to communicate with all parents, grab my Free Parent Communication Cheat Sheet to help get you started.

Speaking with parents about their children can be intimidating. But, we all know that when teachers and parents work together, the students are more successful. This cheat sheet will help you build relationships and increase students' growth. You won't have any issues regularly communicating with parents! Grab your cheat sheet and increase parent engagement this school year!

Let it Go

They’ll be some school years when you get parents that don’t like you. As long it is not every single year, let it go. If you have parents who aren’t fond of you every year, then you may need to do some reflection. But, I think it is normal for every few years you have a parent that complains to the office about you.

We all are different, so it is normal for other adults not to like us. You can’t please everyone, and as long as you’re being respectful and doing what’s best for your students, don’t let their opinions bother you. I know it is easier said than done, but you are the expert in your classroom. Your energy should be spent on building relationships with your students, as your relationships with your students grow, your relationships with their parents will grow too.

Having a problematic parent can make our challenging job even more challenging. The thing you should keep in mind when dealing with challenging parents is that unless you loop with the students, your time with the parent will end in just a few short months!

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Melissa Nikohl

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