When Parents are Angry

As a teacher, we sometimes deal with angry parents. Here are some tips that may help things go better.

  1. Be sure you are safe. If someone is swearing at you on the phone, you can let them know that they can call back when they are ready to speak calmly and you can hang up. If it is in person and you feel threatened, you can ask a colleague to stay with you in the room or you can walk down to the office to get help. In worst case scenarios, you can call 9-1-1.
  2. Things are mostly not this extreme, however and if we simply listen to the parents as they air their complaints, it will go a long way to helping resolve the problem. We can listen without interrupting or contradicting them.
  3. We can ask questions to clarify what they are saying and to make sure we understand.
  4. When responding to the parents’ issues, we can do so without accusing their child or them. I find asking questions is a good way to go, e.g., Did you know that I gave 3 periods for the students to work on their projects in class?
  5. Look for solutions to resolve the parent’s concerns that will also work for you. Invite the parents to suggest solutions that fulfill their desires that will work within your framework.
  6. It is ok to ask to speak with the parents later. You do not have to find a solution that day. You can both think about it. Also, if the parent simply shows up without an appointment and you have a meeting or some other engagement, it is ok to reschedule the meeting. If the parent would like to speak to you during class time, let the parent know that you are responsible for the students now and that you would be available before or after school.
  7. If you are emailing a parent who is angry, it is a good idea to get someone else to read your email before sending it so that you can be sure your email won’t be misinterpreted.
  8. Assure the parents that you like their child. When we can point out the difference between liking their child, but not appreciating the behaviour, that can help. Name some things about the child that are positive – even if it is just that they are consistent.
  9. If you are really stuck, it may be time to get help from your vice-principal or principal. They have a lot of experience. They may even take over this issue for you with the parent.
  10. Don’t take things too personally. This gets easier the longer you’ve been a teacher. Remember, they are angry and saying things they may not say when they are calm. Sometimes, a parent will be mad and we as teachers are not able to do what they are asking. Then, we simply live with them being mad at us. We are not able to control other people’s feelings, just ours.

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