An angry parent can appear in front of you without warning. Regardless of what else you are handling at the moment, you must deal with this frustrating and nerve-racking situation, because your angry parent wants immediate answers.
- It doesn’t matter how off base you think they are.
- It’s irrelevant if you think their behavior is rude and unprofessional.
- It doesn’t matter how poorly your own day is going.
You are the one with the power to remain cool, calm and collected so you can address their concerns with class and professionalism while turning their anger into enthusiastic support for you and your center.
Parents are passionate about their children and sometimes their passion fuels anger. They want to know all the details. And the only details they may have are those delivered by a distracted child. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel – and want to be treated – if the discussion was about your child?
There are many things a parent can be angry about. However, regardless of whatever has aggravated them, your response must be consistent.
You can handle angry parents by following these tips:
1. Listen and Agree.
Allow them the opportunity to vent without interruption. If you jump in on their explanation, it will simply make them angrier. Sometimes getting it off their chest calms them. After they’ve vented, take the opportunity to let them know that you agree that there is an issue to resolve. You are not agreeing that they are right. You’re simply agreeing that there is an issue to resolve.
By categorizing the issue, you can often resolve the issue quickly by sending them to the person who can answer their question or by providing the parent with complete information.
- If the complaint is related to teaching methods, curriculum, school policies (and other areas that are out of your control) then refer them to the principal without further comment.
- If the complaint is about your classroom management plan, homework policy, or classroom procedures, then a polite explanation of why you do things the way you do should suffice. Without being defensive, educate them on how your program works to protect every student’s right to learn and enjoy school.
Be open, inviting, and personable, and they’ll walk away impressed with you and the way you run your classroom.
- If the complaint falls outside the first two categories, then it is probably related to a behavior issue or incident. In this case, it’s ideal to follow the remainder of the steps to resolve the situation in the best way possible.
It goes a long way with an angry parent for you to validate the parent’s feelings. Tell them that you understand why they’re upset and why they feel the way they do. Don’t be dismissive, as if the issue isn’t very important, because this will fuel their anger. You want them to understand that their issue is a real concern to you.
4. Take Responsibility and Apologize.
It doesn’t matter whether you are or are not directly responsible for the issue. Taking responsibility is the fastest way to diffuse anger and works out best for both of you. Let them know that you’re taking responsibility and that you’re going to take care of it. Part of taking responsibility should also be to apologize. Even if you don’t see things their way, you can be sorry that they are upset or sorry that this happened. Sometimes this is what they want to hear. This is a very important way to show them that you aren’t on the defensive but want to work with them to resolve whatever has angered them.
5. Let Them Know You’re Going to Fix It
Your final statement should be a clear statement of how you’re going to resolve the issue. Be specific. As soon as it is possible, fix the problem.
6. Follow Up.
Let the parent know as soon as you have addressed the issue. There is no reason to apologize again and rehash the problem. It’s over. Move on. Thank the parent for coming to you, and ask them to contact you if they have other concerns. This is a very important step in handling angry parents.
In addition to the steps we’ve shared above, consider these tips for making sure you’re prepared for facing confrontation.
- Document the issues that you have with any child’s behavior and the conversations that take place about them.
- Don’t write up problems or talk to parents when you’re mad.
- Talk to other teachers who work with children with behavior issues. There may be success in other areas that you can share with parents so that they feel less defensive when unacceptable behavior is discussed.
- Know what you want the outcome of your confrontations with parents to be. If you’re in control of your emotions and the situation, you can also get the results that you want.
Here are some additional tips to remember in the midst of parental confrontation.
- Do not be defensive – even if parents are. Use positivity to diffuse their anger.
- Let the parents vent first. Take responsibility and empathize before you propose your solutions.
- Use ‘active’ listening. By reiterating their concern and asking if you’ve understood it correctly, you let the parent know that you’re engaged in the conversation. You’re not just waiting for them to finish talking.
- Use behavioral, nonjudgmental terms when describing the problem in behavioral, nonjudgmental terms.
- Don’t bring the student in until you and the parents have reached a resolution. It won’t do any good to include the student if the parents are still upset.
- Agree on specific steps that you and the parents will take.
- Tell the parent when you’re going to get back to them.
Here are some tips, in addition to following up, for after your confrontation:
- Agree to meet or to talk again and agree on a pretty quick timeframe for this. When half the semester is gone, it’s too late.
- Follow up with a progress report even if you’ve not been able to get the information or set actions in motion by the date that you set.
Resources: naaweb.org; smartclassroommanagement.com