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Tips For Teachers On Dealing With Angry Parents

Even the best teachers are sometimes faced with volatile, overwhelming, or overbearing parents – it simply comes with the job. But while dealing with irate or angry parents can’t be avoided, instructors can learn helpful strategies for communicating and cooperating with difficult parents and ultimately, improve the learning experience for the student in question.


A parent could become angry for any number of reasons – you gave Bobby a poor grade, you disciplined Susan for acting out in class, you teach reading in a certain way- but most irate parents can usually be reasoned with in similar ways:


  • Go into the meeting prepared. Especially if you know that you are speaking with a combative parents, prepare for your meeting with documentation of the events you will be discussing and with possible plans to remedy the situation. Understand that the child might be withholding information from his or her parents and that comparing notes and getting everyone on the same page is a critical first step.


  • Listen to what the parent has to say. As frustrating as it may be, let the parent get out their story and explain their feelings. Take notes and try to keep interruptions to a minimum. As hard as it might be, try not to become defensive and don’t take accusations personally. At the end of the day, the parent is usually just concerned about their child or is facing stress in other parts of their life.


  • Make a criticism sandwich. If you do indeed need to share negative information about the child in question, be sure to bookend the bad news with positive remarks. Bring out tests, art projects, and writing assignments to share and include personal anecdotes about the child that the parent won’t be familiar with. F the child is having trouble with classroom behavior, mention that he or she is excelling in art class and on the soccer field. If the child is struggling with spelling and math, mention that he often helps other students and is a friend to all.


  • Don’t talk to a parent when you are angry. Two angry people will never solve a problem, and you are more likely to be judgmental or rash if you have a hot temper within you meet with a parent.


  • Create a plan. Realize that the parent is not just in your classroom to yell – they are there to solve a problem. Draw out on paper the plan to solve the problem at hand, whether it involves the child’s classroom behavior, grades, or other issues. The more specific the plan, the better. Ask the parents what they or other teachers have tried to solve the problem in the pas and what the results were.


  • Bring in a third party. If other strategies fail, you may be in a situation where the parent is truly out of hand and balks at any attempt at cooperation. In these situations, call a meeting with other school figures present, such as a principal, assistant principal, guidance counselor or fellow teacher.


  • Thank the parent for being involved. Remember: for every parent who calls you on the weekend upset or shows up in your classroom after school, there are many more parents who don’t take the time to be concerned about their children’s schooling. Keep in mind that they are simply angry out of concern for their child and just want the best for their child.


  • Follow Up. Make an appointment to call or meet again in a few weeks. During the follow up meeting, go over the steps you have both taken to improve the situation and give them a progress report.


By Elliott Shostak for Project Appleseed

Project Appleseed engages three distinct groups of parents

Public Agenda research demonstrates that public school parents fall into three categories. Project Appleseed's Parental Involvement Toolbox is designed to engage each group with evidence based strategies.

Help Seekers

Parents Who Are Concerned About Their Own Children’s Learning and Need Help.. 

School Helpers

Parents Who Want to Help Out More in Traditional Ways at Their Children’s Schools

Potential Transformers 

Parents Who Would Like More Say in their Children’s Schools and Are Poised to Take Action

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