Have you ever had the parent that has rocked your world to the point you question if you should continue your career in teaching? This post about dealing with difficult parents will tug at those heartstrings as well as provide support for how to handle these challenges so you can stay sane during your year.
How this post came to be:
This blog post took about a month to write. When I started writing this blog post, I did more harm on my keyboard by overloading it with tears than I did provide any educational value. This year, I had a parent that questioned every tiny detail regarding his child. His e-mails were rude and he made me feel like a lesser person in the fact that he CC’d my principal in every email. These are just a few tidbits, not to rant, but to let you know that I’ve been there. I’ve struggled, I’ve questioned my profession, and I have prayed hard about these circumstances. The fact that I am a teacher-blogger and write on this website does not give this website some super power shield to block myself from these strenuous teacher issues.
Thankfully, the principal at my school is a wonderful leader that helped guide me through this learning experience. If you are ever in need, let this blog post provide you with tips that I have gathered after reflecting on my own experiences.
The first tip should basically be considered a rule. I am a transparent teacher that admits my faults when necessary and feels that it is part of the growing process. I will loudly admit that I have definitely pressed send on an e-mail to that difficult parent that I should not have before. It is so easy to just respond to respond, and then click send so you can be done with the issue. However, that usually means it’s going to come back and bite you in the you know where.
- If you receive an upsetting e-mail in the morning, click out of it and do not let it ruin your day. You are human and a quick response is not going to end the issue. You are also losing in the sense that you are giving the parent more time during the day to reply again. Providing the extra time will give the parent time to cool down.
- Don’t proofread your emails yourself. Send them to a colleague, school specialist, counselor, principal, or assistant principal for the green light before you press send. You don’t want to use a phrase like, “I am baffled” and they take it as rude. Yes, Yes….I DID use that phrase! Honestly, I just like the word baffle and had no expectation that it would catch fire. Let’s just say I got scorched on that one and have thoroughly learned my lesson. My faults stem from the issue of at times only writing to answer the question and offer clarity. There are times when I forget to put emotion in them. In today’s social media world, a smiley face or exclamation mark is needed in parent e-mails, whereas from my educational background, I saw that as unnecessary fodder. Now, you better believe I am inserting jokes, and emoticons into my emails to reach my parents.
- DELETE YOUR SCHOOL EMAIL FROM YOUR PHONE! Your time off is your time off. The most cathartic to do is delete your school email and I guarantee you will be 1000% happier because of it. If someone from school needs to reach you that badly, they can call you. This will also aid in you responding to an email that needs time to process first.
If it gets to the point where you realize the parent is going to e-mail stuff your inbox, take authority and set a schedule. Tell the parent that you would love to share the positives as well as what their child is still working on to ensure success. This will give you time to test methods and allow their child to adapt to the different methods you are trying. As a result, a weekly or biweekly check in would be more beneficial. You as a teacher will be able to share not only what you are trying, but you will be given enough time so you can share how the methods worked for their child.
In addition, the difficult parent can also be working on some things at home to help better manage their child to strengthen the home/school connection. If the child works well with checklists, encourage that parent to create morning and evening checklists for their child. IT SHOULD NOT JUST BE YOU DOING THE WORK. One of my favorite lessons is to, “Helicopter back. Be a helicopter teacher”. Ask the parent questions in the check in. Did what you suggested they try work for them? The parent will realize, hey…this is a lot of work 😉
This was a hard lesson that I learned with the guidance from my principal. That parent may be asking you over and over again what you are doing for his child, but in truth, that parent will never truly see all that you are doing to ensure their kid (and the others in your classroom) are taken care of. You can’t make them see because they have no idea what it is like to be a teacher.
You also can’t argue with crazy. We can’t please everyone and when that happens, you need to rely on the support of your administration. Let them know what is happening and understand it is OK to ask for help.
At the end of the day the parent *hopefully* isn’t picking a fight just to pick a fight. There is probably some underlying issue regarding their behavior. Divorce could be a reason there is conflict. Is there a medial issue bothering them? Do the internalize any issues with their child as bad parenting on their part? Whatever the issue is you cannot control it. Please understanding that you cannot make them fix their own internal issue, but you can make them respect you.
This should also fall into the category of RULES. Whenever there is ever an issue, behavior or academic, somebody somewhere is going to ask what you did and how did it work. In this case, you must show concrete examples. Take the emotion out of it. When you document you need to rely on facts only and not feelings. “X did this because Y”.” Teacher tried X, the student’s response was Y”. Be specific, but do not show your feelings when you are writing these things. I recommend writing them immediately after you try something. Then GO BACK at the end of the day and re-read it once you have a clearer head about the situation. This will save you with your wording.
I began by documenting everything in a paper format. Handwriting can take extra time and you may be more prone leave out certain information. Typing is faster and you can’t lose the documents since it’s saved online. I created a Google Doc that you can download and tweak for your benefit. Protect yourself by using these forms that will keep all the information for that one parent in one spot. The behavior ones can be used for whoever. I created different versions so you can take what you need.
CLICK HERE to download.
Do you send out a newsletter every week? I send out an electronic newsletter that is housed on our classroom website (Created by A Bird in Hand Designs). It is so much easier to type what I need to say on our website, and I can refer back to it for parents as the year goes on. This website also doubles as documentation that I have contacted parents to let them know what is happening in the classroom at least one a week. Parents will receive an email notification from me with the link so they are reminded to check the website.
I have a tab on my website called “Home Activities”. In this section, parents can find helpful academic websites and apps that children can work on at home. I also list websites like ReadWorks, where parents can find reading passages for their children. Of course, if a parent does not have the means to print at home I will definitely do it for them, but this ensures that they have access to material without me as well.
In my blog post, if I say we are learning about subject and predicates, then I link to an anchor chart from Pinterest or a quick video that I easily looked up on Youtube. Instead of quickly typing the skill, I am opening the door to show the parents what we are learning. This is something that I could not do if I only gave a paper copy.
You can also make flashcards on Quizlet for different skills and post the flashcards to the website for the kids to have access to. This was an example I implemented with multiplication facts.
This hub may seem like a daunting task at first. Once you have done it for the year you will have it ready to go for the following teaching years. All you will have to do is tweak it from year to year and add more resources if you choose. This hub is great for parents that say they want to help their child but don’t have the extra time to find something. They know they will always have access to this area.
Take the grow and glow approach. Sandwich the grows with some positives first so the parent can feel that some accomplishment is happening.
You are there to teach and there are also 18 other sweet little kids that need your attention. This includes the child of the parent who is driving you up the wazoo. Don’t allow the feelings of the parent to overtake the kindness of the other children that love you and appreciate what you do for them.
Rose-Colored glasses people, even when they’re fogging up and its a rain storm. This stressful parent is making you try new things and well and find patience. Think of this parent as if they are teaching something to you for your following teaching career. Did you learn how to respond to e-mails? Have you learned how to leave work at home? What about new management techniques that surfaced since you had to try out so many with their child? What did you learn and how did you have to change to learn something? This can be so difficult to see when you at the time you’re seeing red or blue. However, when you’re over the hump of the parent, you will be able to say, “Thank you Mr. _________” as you use a tool that you had to use with him in your following years.
I hope you were able to take even one idea to use during your hardship. If you have any tips for parents, please comment below. Together, we are so much better.