Angry, difficult and hostile parents. It seems that they are everywhere and almost unavoidable as a teacher these days. They are part of the job that can really increase stress and pressure.
Inspired by a recording of a parent on BBC Radio 5 Live this morning, below are a few hints and tips we’ve gathered that hopefully may help:
Stay calm and professional. Deep breath in and out.
Generally speaking, if they are yelling at you and you are talking to them in a calm voice, they will calm down.
When to think and listen.
People who are being driven by emotions during a situation sometimes need to vent. If you try to be combative or escalate your own temper, you could end up saying something unprofessional.
Remember, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard no matter how out of hand a situation gets. You can always listen and promise to respond once you have looked into their concern or spoken with the SLT.
If you are fearful of the confrontation, ask a colleague (preferably a member of the SLT) to attend any meetings you have with that parent.
Do not meet with a parent that is physically intimidating on your own. Always have another person with you if you have to meet with them.
You don’t have to respond to anything that is said or asked to you. You can simply respond by saying you will look into the matter in more detail.
An interesting technique is to ask them what they would do?
Again you don’t have to take their advice, but listening to how they would deal with the issue and perhaps explaining why those aren’t possible or even simply difficult can lead to a dialogue.
Once you are in a dialogue, ask them to help solve the issue.
Try to find good in the bad.
In any circumstance, when having a difficult conversation, it can nearly always be started on a positive note.
Does their child have a sense of humour? Do they have a close friendship group? Are they well presented? Are they more sensitive than they first seem?
All parents are dealing with issues at home and knowing that something is going okay can be a great way to start a dialogue off. Maybe they just need to know their child isn’t being judged unfairly.
Narrow down the problem
Try to narrow down the problem so you can identify the exact circumstances and the problem in detail.
Broadly is the issue about classroom management or learning? Then is it about school policy, teaching techniques, resources, …..
Once you have defined the problem in detail, then the parent knows you understand their point of view.
You don’t need to respond; you can ask what they would do; you can say you will investigate it further; you can say you will keep an eye on the matter; you can say it’s school policy so the head should be consulted.
Keep good records.
This is essential. Make notes on your interactions and file them away. You just never know.
Referring to the head or SLT may or may not be a good idea. A conversation with the head before doing so is probably the best way of proceeding.
Even if you are not going to change anything, even if you think they were completely and utterly wrong; let them know what’s going on.
“We looked into the matter and are happy that it won’t happen again”
“it’s school policy so unfortunately my hands are tied.”
“I’ll keep an eye on the situation”
“Let us know if you have any more concerns”
Teachers are some of the most caring people in the world. I know it’s difficult not to worry and stress, but you are doing your best for their children. That’s all anyone can ask of you (although I’m sure there’s plenty of other things you have to do!)