Dealing with difficult parents is virtually impossible for any educator to escape. As a school administrator or teacher, you aren't always going to make everybody happy. You are in a position where it is sometimes necessary to make difficult decisions, and parents will sometimes challenge those decisions, especially when it comes to student discipline and grade retention. It is your job to be diplomatic in the decision-making process and to think through every decision without being rash. The following steps can be very helpful when dealing with a difficult parent.
It is easier to deal with a parent if you can build a relationship with them before a difficult situation arises. As a school administrator or teacher, it is essential for a number of reasons to build relationships with the parents of your students. If the parents are on your side, then you typically will be able to do your job more effectively.
You can be especially proactive by going out of your way to talk to those parents who have a reputation for being difficult. Your goal should always be to be friendly and personable. Show these parents that you make your decisions with your students' best interests at heart. This is not the be-all and end-all solution to dealing with difficult parents, but it's a good start. Building relationships takes time, and it's not always easy, but it can certainly help you in the long run.
Most parents who complain genuinely feel like their child has been slighted in some way. Although it is easy to be defensive, it is important to have an open mind and to listen to what the parents have to say. Try to see things from their perspective. Often when a parent comes to you with a concern, they are frustrated, and they need someone to listen to them. Be the best listener you can and respond in a diplomatic manner. Be honest and explain the thoughts behind your decision-making. Understand that you are not always going to make them happy, but you can try by showing them that you will take everything they have to say into consideration.
It is critical that you be prepared for the worst possible situation when an angry parent comes into your office. You may have parents who storm into your office cursing and screaming, and you will have to handle them without losing control of your own emotions. If a parent is extremely agitated, you can politely ask them to leave and return once they have calmed down.
Though a situation like this is rare, you should nevertheless be prepared for a student-teacher meeting that turns combative. Always have some way to communicate with an administrator, teacher, secretary, or other school personnel just in case a meeting gets out of control. You do not want to be locked in your office or classroom without a plan to get help should this kind of situation arise.
Another important aspect of preparation is teacher training. There are a handful of parents who will bypass a school administrator and go straight to the teacher with whom they have a problem. These situations can turn quite ugly if the parent is in a combative state. Teachers should be trained to direct the parent to a school administrator, walk away from the situation, and immediately call the office to inform them of the situation. If students are present, the teacher should immediately take measures to secure the classroom as quickly as possible.