How To Be Proactive And Deal With “Difficult Parents"
Are you worried because your coworkers have told you that you have “very difficult parents”? Yes, it’s true. In our profession we will encounter parents who are not so easy to work with. BUT there is also a way you can take action, to prepare yourself (and them) as best as possible, make a good impression, and start the year off right.
I learned that the more proactive you are, the better. Parents want to know that their child’s teacher is knowledgeable, responsible, available, and willing to do what it takes to help their child grow and learn. I mean, that’s our job, right?
Sometimes it seems like you have to prove yourself before some parents’ trust that you are doing what you can to be a great teacher and that you will always have their child’s best interest at heart. (Keep in mind, this is not 100% and there are ALWAYS exceptions)
At the beginning of every school year, I always send a Special Education case manager letter. Your school probably has a template they prefer you to use. This is an introduction letter letting parents know what your responsibilities are as case manager.
In addition to this, I take the time to email or call parents to personally introduce myself. I give them a brief introduction on who I am, what classes I will be teaching their child this year, and how I am looking forward to be part of their child’s team, to help them have a great year. I also ask them if they have anything they wish to share before the first day about their child, in order to make the transition back to school smoother. This helps set the tone for the year.
Something I started doing these past few years is also inviting parents in (during the teacher work week) for a brief meeting to go over logistics. Each meeting was a maximum of 30 minutes where I spoke to parents about concerns with their child (behaviors, difficulties, toileting needs, certain equipment, communication devices etc.). Not all parents came in, but you can bet the more ‘difficult parents’ did.
They want to know you care and that you want to understand their child. Trust me, parents appreciate this extra step. I know you are SUPER busy the teacher work week, especially if you’re a brand-new teacher, but if you’re willing to put in the work up front, it makes a difference throughout the year. If you put in the work, it will pay off.
Like every relationship, it’s also about maintenance. The more effort you put into the relationship, the more parents trust you and hopefully are easier to work with. Make an effort to send emails here or there (even if they are one liners to say, “Jack had a wonderful day today, there was some change in his routine, but he dealt with it beautifully!” Parents appreciate it, and it’s a GREAT precedence to set for your ongoing relationship.
** Also, I taught in self-contained classrooms with a maximum case load of 10 students (students with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism). So, depending on your caseload, you know what you can handle in terms of time.