When you were considering becoming a teacher, you probably never dreamed of having to use teaching strategies to deal with a disrespectful parent. Unfortunately, at some point in your teaching career, you will have encountered this awful situation. Having to use teaching strategies to deal with an unreasonable parent is hard, but it is also time-consuming and extremely stressful. We all know that every parent wants what they think is best for their child, that is understandable. However, making excuses and blaming others for their child’s mistakes is not OK. It is our job as the teacher to resolve this difficult situation in a calm and collective manner. Here are a few teacher-tested teaching strategies to help you cope with a disrespectful parent, so if you are ever are put into this kind of situation, you will be able to handle it with grace.
- Plan ahead. If you are prepared to handle any kind of situation, it will make it a lot easier to handle. Try and think ahead of time what you would do, or how you might handle a situation like dealing with a disrespectful parent. If this type of situation arises, and you are taken off guard, then you will already be prepared mentally for it.
- Record everything. If and when you get into an uncomfortable situation with a child’s parent, then make sure that you document everything. Keep track of all communications that you have had with the parent, and keep it in a separate folder. Make sure that you write down the dates and times of each interaction or altercation that you have had. If the parent e-mails you, then save each e-mail as well as your response to it. Keep this folder in a safe place that is easily accessible because you never know when you may need it.
- Don’t get caught off guard. There may be a time or two that a parent will catch you off guard and you may mistakenly say the wrong thing. Don’t let this happen. Instead, be prepared and just tell the parent that you will get back to them with an answer soon. This will give you a chance to really think about what you want to say, as well as bounce some ideas off your colleagues on how you can go about answering the question.
- Don’t be afraid to walk away. If you encounter an overly confrontational parent and you feel that you are being put into an uncomfortable situation, then it is OK to walk away. An excellent example of this is when a 2nd grade teacher was talking to a parent who was acting in an extremely disrespectful manner, so the teacher decided to just walk away. The parent continued to yell at the teacher that she was going to the principal’s office, so the teacher told the parent that was where she was headed, and that she could join her if she wished. In the end, the parent didn’t follow, and the teacher that walked way left with her head held high. So, as a result, it is OK to get yourself out of any situation where you feel threatened or uncomfortable.
- Back up all of your claims with facts. Make sure to always show a specific example of what you’re talking about to get your point across. If you are a dealing with a parent who is attacking your teaching methods and who thinks their child is being wrongfully accused, then you better make sure that you have concrete examples to back up whatever you are saying. Instead of taking their verbal abuse, prove them wrong and show them a specific example to illustrate your point.
- Try and be sensitive. Always remember that the person you are referring to is someone’s child. Put yourself in the parent’s position and think about if you were in that situation, how would you like the teacher to respond to you? Try and sandwich your comments by acknowledging the child’s strength before you move on to an area of concern.
- Stop all communication. Just as the teacher felt it was OK to walk away in the example above, it is also OK to stop all communication with the parent. Only do this if it is absolutely necessary and you feel you have exhausted all other options. If a parent e-mails you, you can respond by just saying, “I have received your e-mail and thank you for letting me know your concerns for your child.” If the parent wants to have a conference or would like a more in-depth conversation with you, then make sure to set it up at a time where the principal is available to be present.
- Get your administration involved. If you have exhausted all of your options, then your last option is to get your administration involved. Just know that some things are out of your hands and that you did all that you could to make it work on your own.
Managing disrespectful, difficult parents is probably not what you thought you signed up for when you went into teaching. However, it’s unfortunately part of the job. Instead of dwelling on how a parent may perceive you or what you could have done differently, acknowledge that you have done the best that you could and offer the parent a chance at a partnership so that their child can have a wonderful school year.
Have you ever had to deal with a difficult or disrespectful parent before? If so, how did you handle it? Please share your stories with us in the comment section below. Your story may help out a fellow educator.
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 a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.
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