If you are a teacher just beginning your career, you may not realize just how much dealing with difficult parents can not only ruin your day, but ruin your whole year. Sometimes we spend more time fretting about “getting stuck” with the kids that have behavior problems when we should actually be rubbing our lucky rabbit’s foot so we don’t get saddled with difficult parents that can make our lives extremely challenging. Below are a few types of problems you may have with parents of your students and how to deal with them appropriately.
Difficult Parents that Believe You Need to Teach Better
Almost every year you will have to deal with a set of parents that just don’t appreciate your teaching style or curriculum. They want you to do things differently than you are in the classroom. These difficult parents are known as the backseat drivers of classroom teaching.
They either feel you are teaching too quickly or too slowly. Or perhaps they want you to work with their child more. I can’t recall how many times parents have asked me to tutor their children for free after school as if I didn’t ever leave my classroom. After a bit, you will realize that the saying you can’t please all the people all the time is true.
By all means, do your best in these situations and work with the children that need extra help. But make sure you explain to the difficult parents that this is a joint effort. Ask them what they are doing at home to fix any of these problems. I have learned that once you make them aware that parents and teachers need to work together on these issues that they usually take a step back. Unfortunately, there are those parents out there that just want to leave the educating of their child up to the teacher. Let them know that you are willing to put in the extra time if they are.
Helicopter parents are the ones that just seem to be showing up in the classroom at a moment’s notice. If a slight situation arises, they make their appearance known to all. Some get creative and reach out all the time through phone calls and emails just so they don’t have to make the physical trek to the school. In any case, this isn’t good news for the teacher. We want parents to be involved, but we also want them to back off enough so we don’t feel like we have to answer to them repeatedly.
The best thing you can do with helicopter parents is to let them know you have everything under control. If their child does not finish a homework assignment, then the teacher does not need the parent to plead the child’s case for leniency. Sometimes it is tough for parents to let their kids stand on their own two feet in these situations and face the music. If you encounter difficult parents like this, explain that you will deal with the repercussions at school and they should handle it at home as well.
Parents that Feel Like Their Child Is Being Singled Out
If you have taught for any length of time at all, you have encountered parents that feel their child is being singled out by you. They may even raise concerns that you are picking on their child. Somehow when the child misbehaves at school, and you call them out on it, then you are unjustly picking on them. Remember back in the days when the teacher was in charge and the parents would accept their word over the word of the child who was looking to get out of punishment?
If something like this happens to you, talk to the teacher that had the child the year before. Hold off on any quick reactions. Find out if this is a common occurrence with these parents. If it is, then you won’t feel so badly at their accusations. At some point, parents will need to accept that their little angel is not an angel all the time. If these difficult parents persist in their allegations, it is best to have administration sit in these meetings. Everything should be documented. With social media being ever-present in today’s society, it is easy for teachers to become vilified by an angry parent or two. Take the high road though. Don’t respond to social media. Keep everything professional and work it out through the school district.
You have probably encountered many more difficult situations with parents that don’t fall into these categories. How do you go about handling them? After all, you don’t want to become a walking mat for problematic parents, but you do want to hear their concerns. Who knew being a classroom teacher would involve having to become an expert negotiator and politician? The tough thing to remember is they just want what is best for their child, even if they don’t know for sure how to go about doing this correctly.