Parents want the best for their children. Teachers know this and they understand, but sometimes ‘interested’ can turn into ‘nuisance’. Pushy parents can be a minefield for a teacher to handle. It requires tact, discretion and a good deal of strategy to stop pushy parents taking over the classroom.
A pushy parent will often feel it is their right to take up a teacher’s time whenever and wherever that may be. Teachers have been known to have parents accost them in the playground, in their cars, in the street and even in their home.
It is absolutely vital to set rules about when and where parental consultation can take place. Whether it’s a quick chat or an in-depth discussion, a pushy parent needs to know that there is a right and wrong time for it.
Display ‘opening hours’ clearly. Put the times when teachers wish to be available to parents onto a timetable and have it prominently displayed, perhaps on the classroom door. Whatever that preference – be it a quarter hour before school officially opens or for half an hour after closing – refer parents to it. If a pushy parent tries to barge in, gently but firmly point out the available times and then stick to it. The latter is vital – give in once and they will push again and again!
Make sure other teachers and school staff know that there are rules. It does no good to set hours if the receptionist lets the pushy parent in to consult ‘out of hours’.
Sometimes, the biggest problem for a pushy parent is letting go. They want to know, preferably to see, what their child is doing. Aware as teachers may be of the need to ‘cut the apron strings’ when a child starts school, being sensitive to a parent’s slow withdrawal is necessary.
Offer to allow the parent to help. This could be on school trips – teachers are often short of able bodies, capable of minding a couple of children when out and about. It could also mean helping out in the classroom, reading with children, helping supervise craft sessions and performing some of the myriad small tasks which take up so much of a teacher’s valuable teaching time, like filing.
Although offering a pushy parent a place in the classroom may help them feel more involved in their child’s educational life, there is also the risk of them trying to do more than is asked. Be firm from the outset. Set them tasks and ensure they are aware of exactly what that task entails, leaving no room for them to ‘spill over’ into other events around the classroom.
Despite a teacher’s best efforts, pushy parents can sometimes prove more than they can handle. There have even been incidences of escalating arguments and violence toward teachers. This is never acceptable.
If a teacher’s relationship with a pushy parent seems to be getting out of control it is time to call in the big guns. Try referring the parent to a superior, or the school head. It also helps to keep a clear and accurate record of what was said and done between parent and teacher. If possible, at this stage, try to have someone else around in the classroom. Another teacher or assistant is a good option.
Pushy parents can be a nightmare, but with a little tact, patience and strategy, they can become a teacher’s dream.