The Challenges of Handling Difficult Parents

Author: Beth Lueders

No matter how admirable you are as a teacher and no matter how much your students love you, you will on occasion encounter a difficult parent. Perhaps even several angry parents at once who demand immediate answers from you.

Dealing with an angry parent.

Part of being a successful educator is knowing how to respond to upset parents and knowing how to avoid parental frustrations in the first place. While a disgruntled parent can come across as rude and intolerable, you have the power to remain calm and collected and turn around the stressful situation to gain the parent’s support for you and the school.

Common Complaints by Parents
Parents are generally passionate about their children and want the best for them. When something appears off-base at school, this passionate concern can fuel blame and anger. As you face a confrontation with a parent, remember that the parent may only have a few details that their child shared and those details may need further clarification for accuracy.

The following are some of the most common complaints that parents make about educators and the school’s administration.

“My kid is a good student. You are the problem.”

“My child doesn’t like you as a teacher.”

“My child is being bullied; why haven’t you stopped this?”

“I don’t agree with the grades you gave my child.”

“My special needs child is not getting the services they require.”

“You give too much homework, and I don’t have time to help.”

How to Handle Upset Parents.
Regardless of what issue triggers a negative reaction, how can you help diffuse the situation and look for the best answers? You can manage the difficulty with the parent by practicing these communication suggestions.

Listen well.
Sometimes a parent just needs to vent. Letting the parent get frustrations off his or her chest can go a long way in coming to an agreement on solving the concern. It may be tempting to interrupt the parent with your perspective but hold your tongue and hear them out.

Validate the parent’s feelings and concerns.
Showing empathy that you understand why the parent is upset can help cool the anger. While you may not agree with how the parent is responding, you want to convey that their feelings are important and together you’ll find solutions. Remind them that you and they are a team, not at odds. Many times they haven’t considered that perhaps the child has not been completely honest or has failed to reveal the entire story.

Take responsibility.
While you may not be directly responsible for the difficulty, you can step up and commit to taking ownership in looking for resolutions. Sometimes apologizing on behalf of the school and those individuals who may have contributed to the problem is what the parent wants to hear. A sincere “We’re sorry” with a promise to look into the issue, can do wonders to rebuilding trust with the parent. And keep in mind that agreeing there is an issue to resolve is not the same as agreeing the parent is right.

Investigate and follow up.
Discuss steps that you and the parent can take to deal with the conflict. Talk to your headmaster or others who can also directly address the issue with the parent. Be sure to circle back with the parent when you’ve looked into the complaint further.

For more ideas on how to work well with parents to help the student succeed check out “What To Do When Parents Blame Teachers.

About the Author

Beth LuedersBeth Lueders is an award-winning journalist who has crisscrossed nearly 20 countries to document stories about the remarkable lessons learned through resiliency. Her work includes in-depth features on the plight of Chernobyl’s radiation-poisoned children and African villagers. Beth has authored and co-authored several books including, Bend: When Life Dares You to Break. Beth lives in Colorado where she also volunteers with her AKC champion collie for pet therapy visits to schools, hospitals, care facilities and military bases.

Scroll to Top