Dealing with Pushy Parents

Some parents, although well meaning, tend to be over assertive. Oftentimes they believe they are more concerned about their child’s education than the teacher and are apt to be pushy. All parents should be handled with tact and assured that their children will be taught patiently and that they will learn in a positive environment both at school and at home.

What then is the best way to deal with such parents so that the teacher has their cooperation but at the same time keeps them at a safe distance? This is advice yours truly looked into in a similar situation and it is a pleasure to share:

*Patience is a Virtue!

Equip yourself with a lot of patience and always look the parents in the eyes. In the Western world looking at someone eye to eye shows you have nothing to hide. And remember these are people with feelings, troubles and worries just like you; they are behaving the way they know how.

*Let them know you’re on their side

Being a teacher, this writer has forever researched this subject. In doing so, there was a valuable discovery made; Ron Clark’s ‘Essential 55’. Mr. Clark realized early on in his career that the parent needs to be on the teacher’s team, aiding his/her task. This was especially challenging when the student was the problem maker of the class. In most of these situations, the parent was not a pushy one, rather this parent was apathetic and assumed his/her child would never amount to anything; quite the opposite from the situation being discussed in this article.

Nonetheless, what Clark did will work in either situation. He telephoned the parents of the problem child and pointed out the good things the child did and was capable of doing. The mother on the other end of the phone was taken by surprise; she was so used to hearing the opposite. It came to be that the mother started believing in her child, the child started to believe in himself, but more importantly, there was a valuable cooperation instigated between teacher and parent.

When the teacher makes the parent a part of what is happening in the class, the parent is at peace knowing that what is being done is the best for his/her child and will back off.

*Set Limits

The trickiest part is allowing the parent to be a part while at the same time setting limits. And parents are not children who want to be guided; these are adults with a matured mind.

Therefore, when making that phone call tell them of the hours that they may come and speak with you personally and make a point of sending a note home with your student about the times you are available. It might look something like this:

I would like to welcome you to our new school year. My aim is to assist your child in learning all he/she can in the best way possible. Please note that you may reach me at the school telephone number or come to see me at school every (write out the days) at (write out the time). An appointment may be arranged in advance for your convenience.

This way parents will have a sense of security that they have the opportunity to find you on specific days and times and they also see that you are on top of things.

*Body Language & Tone of Voice

When speaking in person to parents, as already mentioned, look them in the eyes. This shows them you are an open book. Your body language, however, may fill them with doubts. Stand straight in front of the parent and do not fold your arms. This tells them that you are placing barriers. Keep your hands to your sides or allow yourself to gesture as you speak. When it feels appropriate, you may even pat the parent on the back. This is a gesture that tells the person you are understanding and close to him/her. Your tone of voice should not be rushed or out of breath, rather it ought to sound calm and matter-of-fact. Again this will give assurance to the parent.

*Make the parent an active member

When you deem it appropriate (always with the approval of the school), invite parents to be a part of the class. It may be on a day when you wish to do something special outdoors and the extra help can be of assistance. It may be on a school trip, during a science experiment or simply one day out of the month to come in a help out in any way. What is important is that they have specific tasks so that they are not only busy but will be significant to the parent as well. This way the parent is a witness to the progress and at peace that everything is working out.

*Clarify the parent’s question

When a parent asks about the child’s academic progress, you must first have a clear picture of who the child is and how he/she is learning. Next you must clarify the parent’s question so that you understand specifically what the parent needs to know. Finally, when reporting on the child, you must make certain the parent understands that every child learns in a different manner and pace; even in more differently than his/her parents.

First point out all the good points about the child’s progress and if there are negative areas point out two of the most crucial—not everything. Once the two most serious drawbacks are worked on, everything else usually improves automatically.

*Self Asses

Finally, if you have already done all of the above, but still have pushy parents perhaps it is you who is provoking the situation. Assess your behavior towards the parents. Is your manner, without realizing it, rude or undermining? Some parents feel that teachers talk down to them, lack understanding or view them as being ignorant. Next time you deal with such a parent listen carefully to yourself. Would you feel comfortable and assured if your child’s teacher spoke to you this way? Better yet, when you know you will be meeting such a parent practice what you will say, but remember to listen to the parent first.

Taking all the above into consideration should result in calmer parents, happier teachers and students who learn better.