Teaching: What to Say to Upset, Angry or Hostile Parents

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At some point all teachers run into a parent who is loaded for bear.
The parent might be upset about a remark you made in class, or angry that his child didn't get extra time on his test.
If several things have happened in your class over a period of time, the parent may be very hostile.
What do you do? If you are on the phone, let the parent talk until he stops.
Then way something like "Wow, this is really upsetting to you.
I'd like to hear anything else you'd like to say.
" Eventually, the parent will run out of steam.
If you aren't baited into making a response in return, then there's not much else for them to say.
If the parent is there in person you can use the same "let them talk" method as with the phone call.
Try to get the parent to sit down.
This may relax him a bit.
Again let the parent say everything he wants to until he runs out of steam.
The only exception to this is if the parent won't sit down and comes closer to you in a threatening manner.
In this case, stop the conference.
Say, "We need to bring a close to this for now.
Let's set up a time when we can talk with the principal and address all of your issues.
" Parents have the right to be angry with you but they don't have the right to verbally or physically abuse you.
If the situation is a misunderstanding or something you can resolve quickly, go ahead and do it at the time.
If it is complex or the parent still seems angry, invite him in for a conference.
Make sure you have your principal or supervisor present at the conference.
Brief this person ahead of time.
You may also wish to have your association building representative attend.
Your goal in this type of parent conference is to switch the discussion from you to the child.
"I know you love Johnny more than anything else in the world and you know what works and what doesn't work with him.
I'd love to get some ideas from you for interventions and incentives that work with him.
" The goal is to find out what you and the parent can both do to help Johnny succeed in class.
Once the shift is on the child, the parents should calm down.
Usually, they will apologize for yelling at you.
Parents get stressed and too often teachers are an easy target.
Plan ahead before conferences and decide on some additional ways you can respond to parents.
The main thing is to not lose your temper.
If you can keep your mouth shut until they run out of things to say, you've made it over the biggest hurdle.
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