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How to Handle Irate Parents

Jennifer Dobson

Ask any professional politician and they will tell you that it's impossible to please everyone all the time. Someone always feels they are either being left out, given less attention or outright being treated unfairly.

Teachers must also often play the role of politicians, with the parents being their constituents. Often, parents only show up at the school when they perceive a problem, and not to shower the teacher with compliments on their pedagogical acuity. Therefore, teachers must know how to deal with irate parents and stay calm, cool and in control.

There is a special art form to dealing with people who are "hot and bothered" from the get-go.

Clarifying the Message
Everyone has played the game where a bit of information or phrase is passed from person to person and when it arrives at the last person it is vastly different from when it started. Often this same process takes place when information is relayed through children to their parents. Unlike the game, the information isn't garbled through its transfer through many people, but rather only requires a single child to drastically alter the message.

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When angry parents arrive at the school, the first thing a teacher should do is find out what has been said by the child. Often, simply clarifying the message to the irate parents is enough to remedy the situation. Little Joey very well could have altered a key word or two and delivered a message very different from the original.

Tactfully Blaming the Child
One must be careful when placing blame on a child, even though they are very much to blame. Some parents just don't want to hear that their child isn't perfect. In these cases, the best technique is often to just accept responsibility by telling the parents that you weren't clear in delivering the message to the child and you understand how it got jumbled. Then you can explain to them what was actually said and hopefully fix any problem the error caused. It is amazing how quickly irate individuals can calm down when they hear the other person accept blame.

Being a Mediator
Other times, teachers must act as mediators when dealing with irate parents. This occurs when parents are angry at a child or another parent. The teacher tries to get to the root of a perceived problem, which is often not as serious as the parents believe, and once there, offer a solution that works for both parents. Once again, the optimal remedy is one that redirects the blame from the children and the parents and allows everyone involved to save face.

Irate parents are just another part of a teacher's job. As if the actual children weren't enough, parents arrive acting like overgrown kids themselves. Teachers must remain calm, cool and in control, and hopefully serve as a role model for their students as well as misguided parents. The worst thing a teacher can do is become part of the problem, rather than the solution.

How do you handle irate parents? Share in the comments section!

About the Author: Jennifer invites you to take a look at one of her favorite online websites for educators, It offers an incredible selection of products including everything from bulletin board letters to social studies classroom posters. Visit MPM School Supplies today to save 10% on your first purchase!

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