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Classroom Management for Unsupportive Parents

Janelle Cox

What does a supportive parent mean to you? Supportive parents recognize that a child’s education is important and value and support learning both inside of the classroom as well as at home. Being a supportive parent involves working together with teachers to ensure a child’s success in school. While you may have many supportive parents in your classroom, you may also have a few unsupportive ones. These are the parents that don’t show up when they need to or are not involved in their child’s education at all. While we all know how important an adult taking interest in a child’s education is, when they don’t show up, it’s up to us teachers to use classroom management to help them be a part of the support system. Here are a few classroom management suggestions on how to deal with parents that just don’t show up.

Classroom Management: Try Not to Judge to Critically

Before you go and make any assumptions on why the parents didn’t show up, keep in mind that everyone is going through something different in their own lives. There can be a lot of reasons why parents can’t make it school, and it’s your job to not judge them so critically before you know what’s going on. We don’t always know what’s going on at home, and for some parents, missing work is not an option that they’re willing to take. There can also be lack of transportation or childcare, or even a sick or hurt relative that they just cannot leave. Try and err on the side of compassion before you make any judgments.

Make it Easy for Them to Show Up

Consider all of the different ways that you can make it easy for parents to show up. If you know that there is lack of transportation at home, then see if you can Facetime or Skype with them. If a parent cannot get off of work, then make your conference at a time that is before or after work. If you know that parents do not have access to childcare in order to come to the meeting, then allow them to bring their children and have quiet activities and snacks for the children right outside of the classroom door. Do whatever it takes to accommodate the parents, because as you know, when a parent is involved in their child’s education they are far more likely to succeed.

Provide Services if Needed

Unfortunately, for some families, the reason that they cannot show up to a parent-teacher conference is because they have a lot more things going on at home to worry about that trump being at a school meeting. They can be struggling with the basic needs to survive like housing and food, going through a messy divorce, or even dealing with a death in the family. What you can do to help these families out is to provide them with special services. Refer them to the school counselor and they can find the agencies that will best suite their individual needs.

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Try Getting Relatives or Other Adults Involved

Sometimes it’s just out of your hands, and no matter what you do or how you help, the parents just won’t show up. Instead of giving up, try getting a relative or other adult that’s in the child’s life involved in their schooling. If you know that they are struggling in math and that the student is really close to their soccer coach, then schedule a meeting with the two of them to talk about the importance of getting a good math grade. If you know that a particular student is close with their grandparents, then invite them into school to discuss the child. Anyone that is a constant presence in the child’s life can help make a difference in how well they succeed in the classroom.

Don’t Take It Out on the Student

It’s essential that you don’t take your frustration about the parents not showing up on the student. Sometimes this can be difficult, especially because the majority of the time that you need a conference is because the child is acting up in class. A lot of the time the children that need the most structure are the ones that have a difficult home life and these are the children whose parents never show up. However, as frustrating as it may be, you have to remember it’s not the child’s fault, it’s the parents’ fault. It’s now up to you to be the constant support that the child so direly needs.

When there is a lack of support at home (whether it’s in the parents’ hands or not), your job can become more difficult. However, by being supportive, referring special services, getting other adults involved, as well as making it easy for parents to show up, you can provide students with the support they need to succeed in school.

What do you do to help parents show up? Do you have any classroom management ideas or suggestions that work well for you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you on this topic.  

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at

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