How to help parents understand and work with us
Have you ever dealt with a student whose behaviour was difficult and the parents either refused to believe that their child had any problems, or would not cooperate with you in any of your plans for the student?
Both these issues can be very challenging and require you to use all your diplomatic skills if you are going to affect change.
I once held a meeting with the parents of a child in Year 2 who was constantly in trouble for a variety of problem behaviours. In the classroom, it was mostly low-level behaviours.
He was distracted, often out of his seat, disorganised and hurt other students when he didn’t get his own way or when he was not being closely supervised.
In the playground he often ended up in physical fights with other students over being out in a game or he would over react to being accidentally bumped or being teased.
Both parents were difficult to talk to because they didn’t really want to hear about what he had done, and expected the school to manage his behaviour without any input from them.
They had been called to the school many times for their older son who displayed similar behaviours. They were tired of being called during their work hours about their son.
The student’s father was particularly fiery and could react quite aggressively to negative comments about his son.
Before the meeting, I knew that building relationships with the parents was important, but also that there were guidelines for conversations with difficult parents that I needed to follow.
Reduce parental anxiety by putting these 7 strategies in place for a more productive meeting:
Acknowledge to the parents that it can be hard for them to hear negative comments about their child.
Like any parent, they love their children and want them to do well at school.
The situation could also bring up issues they may have had at school and cause them to feel guilty about their parenting, making it even more challenging for them to listen to what you are saying.
Let them know that you care about their child and that you have the student’s best interests at heart.
Show that you know their child and that while their behaviour is not what you would expect, the child has many redeeming features.
Most teachers are able to find positive characteristics about the students they teach because they do genuinely like their students.
Ask them how their child is going at home.
Asking this question before you launch into a litany of what the child has done at school, means that you may find out that the behaviour is occurring at home or that something else is contributing to the child’s behaviour.
This is a good way to find out what else is happening in the student’s life and how that may be affecting their learning.
Telling parents that their child is disrupting the learning of others may not be meaningful. It is much more powerful to discuss how their child is being affected by their own behaviour.
It also gives them the language to discuss the issue with their child ie ‘If you continue to hit other children, no one will want to play with you’.
Keep it simple.
When you want parents to support you with a behaviour plan, ensure that what you expect of them is achievable and sustainable.
Make their part of the plan simple but effective. You may encourage them to spend more time with their child e.g. read a book or play a game together rather than spending money on tangible rewards.
There is a double benefit to this strategy: the parent/child relationship will be enhanced and young person’s behaviour at school may be positively affected.
Keep it positive.
Having a reward program that is reinforced at home can be very motivating for the parents as well as the child.
Give the parents a chance to celebrate the positives with their child by sending texts, emails and notes home when the student has had success.
Set up regular communication with the parents, face to face if possible.
Keep meetings short and to the point showing that you value their time. Students respond very well to seeing parents and teachers coming together to discuss their progress and they are more likely to see both parties as working together.
Regular communication can enhance the home school relationship and reinforce the notion of both parties being on the same team.
At the end of the day, parents are their children’s first teachers, they are the ones who know the child the best, and if you can work out a way to move forward together, success is almost guaranteed.