Criticisms. Angry parents. Confrontations. No doubt, these aren’t your favorite part of your profession, but we’re guessing that they happen for you, just like they do for anyone who works with kids. No matter how cautious you may be to provide your students with only the highest level of respect and instruction, confrontations with your students’ parents are an inevitable part of the deal. And these confrontations seem to come at the least convenient times, forcing you to put aside whatever important tasks beg for your attention. All because an angry parent is typically demanding, insisting on your immediate attention.
Remember: You’re the Professional
Regardless of how out of line a parent might be — in either the content or attitude of their confrontation — or how difficult your day has already been, you are still the professional. As such, you can resist the urge to act or speak impulsively. Instead, you can take a deep breath and slowly and calmly respond. Don’t be surprised if such a response ends up creating one of your most enthusiastic supporters, in the end.
Begin by giving the parent your undivided attention and asking them to step into a private room and sit down. By speaking words of validation in a caring tone, you’ll hopefully help de-escalate the conversation. Consider saying something like this: “I understand your frustration, and we want to do all we can to understand and to help get this resolved. Please explain to me when the issue started.”
Remember: Parents Are Passionate
Whatever a parent’s level of commitment to any particular vocation, hobby, belief, etc., you can guarantee one thing: they’re passionate about their kids. That passion can be seen as they cheer on their young dancer, athlete, or musician, as well as how they respond when they believe their child has been slighted in some way.
It may not be the time for you to remind them that they only know one side of the story, but it is the time for you to remember that and to try to see the situation from the parent’s perspective. How would you feel if you knew (or thought you knew) what the parent has heard about your own child? Empathy will go a long way toward diffusing the anger and moving toward solving the problem.
Respond: Have Procedures in Place
If you haven’t yet had a confrontation with an angry parent, trust us: you will. Having a consistent means of response will be key to evaluating the situation properly and partnering with the parent to resolve the issue. First, be sure to document any conversations that take place. You may even want to keep a form on file for this very purpose. Avoid written or verbal responses when you’re angry yourself; wait until you can do so calmly. Refuse to discuss the issue with anyone else until you’ve had time to process it. Keep the desired outcome in view, as you consider potential responses.
As you go forward, we have suggestions about steps you’ll want to include on your way to resolving the issue at hand. Continue reading with Part 2.