Tips on Communicating With Difficult Parents
Dec 11, 2008 Teacher Training 2776 Views
Communication with parents is one of the most difficult challenges a new teacher will face. The student teaching experience doe not adequately prepare new teachers for parental interaction and certainly does not prepare new teachers for the difficult parents.
Difficult parents are everywhere in every school district in every location of this country. Of course, you will run across the supportive parents, but the difficult ones will require some extra effort on mastering communications. Mastering the art of interacting with difficult parents means your first year of teaching will be a lot less stressful.
Here are a few survival tips on communication with difficult parents:
Event the most unreasonable parent wants to be heard. If a parent is berating you, respond in a manner that indicates you heard what they said. Calmly use comments like, "so, you are angry" or, "I understand why you feel that way, but...." Do this in a calm tone of voice and then listen to what happens to the parent's tone of voice. In most cases, you will find the parent backing down.
Do Not Argue
Do not argue with an angry parent because this will send the message that the parent can push your buttons and that you are easy to control. As frustrated as you may be, maintain a calm tone of voice and you will find this will neutralize the situation rather quickly.
Do Not Accuse
Whatever you do, never accuse a parent of anything. You may be tempted to do this when dealing with the enabling parent who expects you to do everything for their child to the point where the child is no longer making an effort. State your case in a calm tone of voice and set specific boundaries that indicate where the teaching accommodation ends and the child must take responsibility.
As much as you may not want to, respect the difficult parent and insist that they respect you in return. If the parent continues to be verbally abusive, remain silent and walk away, or suggest they return at another time when they can talk to you in a civil manner.
Maintain Eye Contact
Make sure you are eye level with the parent and do not hide behind any structural object during the interaction. This will send the message to the parent that you are not intimidated by the situation and you are confident in who you are and what you do.
A difficult parent is usually one who thrives on exerting power over others. If you react in the same manner, you are fueling the fire and further aggravating the situation. Remaining silent to their attacks is like denying a fire the air it needs to thrive; it will weaken the flame as well as deny the parent the attention they seek.
Remember that as a first year teacher you still have rights not to be treated as the rookie. In addition, your well being is essential to the success of what will be the most stressful year of your career.
J.C. Sprenger has been teaching at a local high school for 6 years as a special education (inclusion) teacher. Before that, he was a university professor in Mexico (10 years) teaching English to Mexican students. He has a B.A. in psychology and a Master's in Education. Born in Geneva, Switzerland, he now makes his home in Brownsville, Texas. He has been a freelance writer for 15 years in newspapers and recently on the Internet.