Parents can be our most important allies—and while most of them rise to the occasion and meet us halfway to resolve student behavior issues, there will always be parents who refuse to believe that their child could ever behave badly. To help you transform these challenging parents into allies, we’d like to share five tips from this month’s issue of Think Teachers.
5 Ways to Turn Challenging Parents Into Allies
Speak in Private
It’s not uncommon for parents to have their child in tow when they meet with us to discuss their concerns. While the student may have his or her side of the story to share, meeting with the parent and the child at the same time is usually counterproductive: It can lead to interruptions, emotional outbreaks and often makes parents feel more of a need to defend the child.
While you’ll eventually wish to speak with the parents and student together, start by meeting with the parents first.
Wait Until the Fire Cools
Some parents schedule meetings; others simply show up. We’re always wary of having impromptu meetings with parents. More often than not, parents who just show up are still heated and unready to discuss the issue in a calm, collected manner. Even if you have an open-door policy, there’s really no reason to meet with angry parents.
Preface Your Observations
When speaking with parents, preface your observations with subjective language. “I feel,” “It’s my understanding,” and “it’s my belief” all suggests that what you are about to say is open to interpretation; it also suggests that you are interested in hearing the parents’ perspective. Prefacing your observations will keep parents from becoming defensive and give them the opportunity to share their perspective.
Have Tangible Evidence
Many parents are in denial because they haven’t seen any tangible evidence of the behavior in question. Always document every instance of the child’s behavior and have the list ready to show the parents. You may wish to include disciplinary write-ups and test scores on hand as well.
Listen and Be Empathetic
Give parents the necessary and uninterrupted time to give you their side of the story. They may have information that puts the behavior into perspective. And keep in mind that parents may be experiencing stress that is only compounded by dealing with those of their child.