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How to Talk to a Student's Upset Parent

written by: Margie • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/5/2012

If you teach long enough, you will have to deal with a student's upset parent. It will be up to you to calm the situation and respond professionally. There are ways to talk and listen that will allow them to be heard while you remain professional and composed.

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    Do Not Get Defensive

    If a parent verbally attacks you, do not get defensive. Take a deep breath and ask the parent to describe the problem he or she is having. This puts the pressure on them and takes it off of you. After they have finished speaking, repeat their main points back to them. This will prove to them that you are listening and provides an opportunity to make sure you understood them correctly. Sometimes, parents are difficult simply as a result of a misunderstanding. Not that this is an excuse for them to belittle you, but sometimes you can easily clear up a problem just by hearing people out.

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    Don’t Get Mad

    Be aware that is probably a complete waste of time to argue with an angry parent. First, they will probably only get more angry. Second, you are the professional. Remain calm and listen to what they have to say, even if they are incorrect. Then, respond to their concerns.

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    Be Proud of Your Accomplishments

    Don’t be scared to show parents that you are, indeed, a professional. Hang your diplomas and any awards you have received above your desk. Don’t you feel better about your doctor when you see his or her diploma and credentials hanging in their office? Teachers should be no different.Be proud of your degree and accomplishments.

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    Be Self-Confident

    If you’re not feeling it, fake it. Make eye contact. Maintain good posture. Self-confident people are hard to abuse.

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    Do Not Allow Yourself to be Abused

    Under no circumstances should you allow yourself to be verbally or emotionally abused by a student’s parent. If you ever feel this way, end the conversation immediately and request to have a supervisor present at any future meetings. If they refuse to stop talking, simply walk away. No one has the right to abuse you in any situation.

    Finally, try to remember you are in this together. Teachers and parents share a common goal: to provide the best education possible for the children they love. Remind yourself of this when faced with a difficult parent, and try to make this clear to them as often as possible.

    Do you have any additional tips that work for you?