Have you ever had to deal with an angry parent? They are yelling, screaming, steaming, verbally attacking you, and you freeze, with a blank look on your face. Is this really happening to me? WHY?? Your instincts might tell you to defend yourself by yelling back, or you might be the one to break down and cry, or even flee the scene.
Have you ever had to deal with an angry parent? They are yelling, screaming, steaming, verbally attacking you, and you freeze, with a blank look on your face. Is this really happening to me? WHY?? Your instincts might tell you to defend yourself by yelling back, or you might be the one to break down and cry, or even flee the scene. Here are some DOs and DON'Ts to help you handle the situation with grace and dignity. Read on to learn some fabulous tips for dealing with an irate parent.
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Stay calm and professional even if you are feeling defensive and fearful inside. Think to yourself, CALM, COOL, COLLECTED. Generally speaking, if they are yelling at you and you are talking to them in a calm voice, they will calm down.
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Listen to their rant. Really listen. What is the basis for their concern? Is it grades? Is it that something happened on the playground that you were not informed about? Is it about something you did in class that somehow got misinterpreted when junior told their parent? Is it about something that their ex-husband or ex-wife told them? Find out what they are upset about.
Let them vent. Let them tell you everything that they need to tell you about the situation. Ask questions. When did this happen? Who told you? Who else was involved? What happened exactly?
Involve an administrator. Give the principal a heads up. That way, when they end up on her doorstep, she has a little background on how to handle it. There have been a few times where I was being verbally attacked and couldn't get through with any questions. I calmly said, "It sounds like you are very upset. Let's go to the principal and see if we can get this resolved." If the principal was busy, we made an appointment. If they weren't busy, we met and talked out the situation immediately.
Address their concern and investigate it. Reassure them that you are looking into the matter and then get back to them. Was it an incident that involved two kids? Take time to interview the people involved to find out the truth. Get the principal to grill them if necessary.
Ask them for a reasonable suggestion for how to rectify the situation. I had one situation in which the parent was simply angry that something had happened and no one did anything. Many times, once they have been assured that consequences were enforced, they are placated.
Be proactive. I can almost sense parents that may have a problem from the very beginning. The way they look at you or criticize your classroom, or specific comments they make. Try to address their concerns before they become a problem. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do. There is just a personality conflict.
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Document any volitile interaction with a parent. Write down anything you can remember about the situation and the outcome. If it turns into a lawsuit or some kind of reprimand or formal complaint, you have information on your side to document what really happened and what it was about.
Protect yourself. If you are unable to resolve this conflict and are fearful of physical retaliation or just want a witness, ask your principal to attend any meetings you have with that parent. Do not meet with a parent that could potentially hurt you physically. Always have another person with you if you have to meet with them, preferably the principal.
Don't panic, run away, cry, or get defensive. My natural reaction is to get defensive. So I put on my "teacher face," even though my heart is beating a mile a minute, and listen to them.
Don't take it personally. Most teachers wear their heart on their sleeves and are the most caring people in the world. I know that it's probably difficult not to browbeat yourself over an angry parent, but do your best not to.
Don't be afraid to stand up for your actions if you believe that they were the correct ones. A parent was very angry that his child had a "time out" during recess after he punched two kids. I stuck to my guns and said that his child was not being respectful or keeping his hands to himself and needed to be removed from the situation. The principal backed my decision.
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Don't be afraid to admit you were wrong. We make a million decisions every day. Some of them are bound to be not so great. If you were wrong, admit it. Apologize, look repentant. Rectify the situation.
Don't try to reason with someone who doesn't accept reason. Sometimes, there is no reason! There was a parent of a student in my class who for some reason just didn't like me. There wasn't a reason or anything specific. I tried to appease her in every way. I tried to invite her into the class to observe. Nothing worked. Eventually she moved her child out of my class and was happy as a clam. I was just as happy not to have to see her angry face every morning.
I hope that these DOs and DON'Ts help you handle your angry parents with grace and dignity. Do you have any tips from a time when you had an angry parent? Share your story in your comments!