1. Let down your defenses: When a parent approaches you with a concern, whether it be about her child or about your teaching, it is normal to get defensive. After all, it feels like you are being criticized. However, once you get defensive, it will usually only escalate the situation more and will not satisfy either party. Instead of trying to defend your teaching, first validate what the parent is concerned about by saying something such as, “I understand your concern…” Then explain your reasoning in a non-defensive way. This will help to build respect and trust.
2. Encourage involvement: Parents should feel like they can be involved with all aspects of their child’s education. Encourage parents to volunteer in the classroom if they are willing. Other ways that parents can volunteer without being in the classroom include preparing materials or helping on field trips.
3. Start and finish positive: In every interaction that you have with a parent, start and finish on a positive note by telling them something good that their child has done. Remember that parents of children with behavior problems have probably heard the same old negative comments a million times, so surprise them by giving them positive feedback before and after you discuss improvements that need to be made.
4. Communicate: Ensure that your lines of communication are open with parents. Whether you choose to communicate by phone, email or in person, touch base with every parent on a regular basis. Take the time to email or call just to tell them something positive about their child, rather than saving the phone calls for negative events.
5. Don’t assume: Don’t make the mistake of assuming that parents know what their child is learning in school, or how to help them at home. Education is much different today than it was thirty years ago, and parents may be very unaware of new techniques and teaching strategies. Take the time to show parents how their children are being taught. For example, at parent-teacher conferences, show parents how to help their child ask questions during reading, or add 2-digit numbers without using traditional carrying.
Remember that in every interaction with a parent, you have the power to make it a positive experience. It’s in your hands!