What to Do When Parents Blame Teachers

Author: Beth Lueders

Almost every teacher on the planet has encountered parents who think their child’s problems in school are the teacher’s fault. You may be facing that right now with one or more of your students’ parents. Blaming low grades, disruptive behavior, and a disinterest in learning on teachers is a common issue between teachers and parents for students of all ages and grade levels.

Fortunately, there are workable solutions to help all the parties involved improve their communication, and ultimately, help the student grow academically and personally. The following are several ways to explore how to stop the blame game and turn around a student’s learning for the positive.

Understand the bigger picture. Students who paint a false narrative about teachers to their parents do so for a number of reasons. For some students, poor academic grades are at the root of blaming a teacher. Or, sometimes special education students with emotional issues act out with passive-aggressive criticism of teachers. Other students who finger point at the teacher do so because they feel ignored at home and are seeking attention from parents.

Avoid becoming defensive. As challenging as it is to hear grumblings about your job as a teacher, it is imperative to not to display defensive behavior. Instead, be calm and approachable. Ask good questions during parent-teacher discussions and conferences and be an attentive listener. The school administration also will benefit by remaining calm and approachable and keeping an open dialogue with the unhappy parents. The goal is to show the parents that you care and want to solve the problem.

Build trust with the student. One of the best ways to restore open rapport and confidence in each other is to strengthen your relationship. Look for simple ways to encourage and build up the student. Often a smile and a “good job!” goes a long way to turn around a tense relationship.

Strengthen the child’s self-esteem. When a child feels valued and understands his or her worth to others, the student will make better choices and decrease in negative or fault-finding behavior.

Invite the parents to visit the classroom and observe their child in class. Parents often do not know what their child acts like in a school classroom or at recess. Try to keep the parent/parents out of eyesight of the child with no interaction during the observation time. You may need to schedule a few low-key visits so the student can relax and forget the parent/parents are nearby.

Use a team approach. To help with an intervention discussion with parents, include several of the child’s teachers from music, physical education, and other subjects to glean insights about the student’s problems from multiple teachers and classes.

Using data in talking with parents. Sometimes observation data also called soft data and academic data (hard data) is helpful in showing parents how and when their child is making poor decisions or exhibiting inappropriate behavior.

Reward the child for telling the truth. It’s important to recognize and applaud positive behavior such as being honest and respectful. Learning to be truthful is a major step in steady character development.

A child counselor or psychologist may be a helpful resource. A mental health professional can counsel a child by asking the right questions and use role playing to get to the problem of manipulating adults in their lives.

Encourage parents to attend parenting classes. If the negative behavior and putting the blame on teachers is not addressed, the child will continue to manipulate adults in their life and not accept responsibility for their actions. These parenting classes can be informal through the school administration, a professional counselor, a church, or other healthy child-raising resource.

Model the character you want students to model. Students need to be taught how to display good character. How are you at demonstrating compassion and kindness? Do you have consistent control of your tongue? How’s your patience? Teaching moral character traits to your students will establish them in healthy interactions with others. Students also benefit from learning social skills that help with problem-solving instead of blaming teachers who represent authority.

Be encouraged. From time to time, you and your teaching may run up against resistance from students and their parents, but together you can change the dialogue. Your positive steps today, can change the trajectory of the student’s behavior and relationships for a lifetime.

About the author: Beth 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.

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