Best Practices for Communicating Effectively with Critical Parents

communication imageYou have a lot in common with your students’ parents. You both want your students to succeed and are motivated to advocate for their achievement. While teachers can be impartial and objective when assessing a student’s performance, a parent may be more naturally inclined to express their frustration when they do not see the results they believe their son or daughter can achieve. The result, for you, might be an uncomfortable dialogue with a parent who complains about their child’s grades or assessments.

While you can easily respect a parent’s involvement and their desire to champion their son or daughter’s success, it can be time-consuming and difficult to routinely sift through concerns, criticisms, and complaints from parents, especially when you are confident that you have assessed their child’s performance fairly and accurately. To ensure both you and your students’ parents are collaborating to enable quality academic performances, it is important to effectively communicate with parents who regularly raise concerns about their child’s assessed performance. Doing so will offer the parents the perspective they need to help their son or daughter rightfully earn higher achievements. Below are five tips for communicating effectively with parents who routinely raise concerns.

  1. Respond Promptly. Even though you may want to procrastinate what you fear may be a heated discussion, your conversation will be more productive if you have it as soon as possible. Feeling like you are not immediately responsive to a parent’s concerns will only further aggravate an already worried parent.
  2. Start by Listening. This suggestion may feel counterproductive when you feel like you repeatedly have the same conversation with the same parent, but anyone with a complaint is going to want to be heard and will need that satisfaction if they are going to listen in return. Start by giving the parent an opportunity to express their grievance. Next, acknowledge that you heard, understand, and appreciate their concerns. Then, calmly, clearly, and succinctly explain your professional perspective about the student’s performance.
  3. Hold Your Resolve. If a parent is advocating for a higher grade on a test, but you know the student did not earn the desired mark, do not give in to protests to alter the grade. Someone who believes that complaining loudly and consistently will get them what they want will quickly learn if you are the type of person who can be manipulated by such tactics. Remember that it is not in the student’s best interest to inflate their grade, especially if it does not accurately reflect their understanding of the course material.Similarly, if the parent’s concern is with a disciplinary action, but you can verify that you have followed the school’s code of conduct policy, do not reduce the student’s disciplinary sentence out of exasperation or a desire to end the conversation with the parent. The student will be more likely to behave appropriately in the future if he or she truly understands what it means for there to be consequences to their actions.
  4. Patiently Persist. If you are not able to end a conversation cordially and by agreeing on how to proceed in the student’s best interest, let a day or two pass to give the parent a chance to reflect on your conversation. Then, call him or her again to discuss further. Some time to calm down and reflect on the situation may give the parent the perspective to agree on a course of action. It may also stop them from reacting hastily and defensively to concerns in the future.
  5. Remain Positive About the Student’s Future. To trust you and the decisions you make that affect their son or daughter, a parent will need to see that you believe in their child and care about their future. Reinforce this belief by always remaining positive and optimistic about the child’s capabilities and future, even in the midst of a difficult situation.It can be disappointing and frustrating to feel that a parent does not support your efforts to help their child grow and succeed. Keep in mind, however, that you both have the child’s best interest at heart, and that together, through open, respectful dialogue, you can appreciate one another’s point of view and move forward in a constructive manner that will enable the child to do better in the future.

PLS Classes designed this blog with teachers’ best interests in mind! If there are any topics that you’d like us to address in future posts, please share your comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!

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