Have you ever had a parent storm into your classroom without an appointment and demand that you meet with them right away, meanwhile your students are waiting outside the classroom unsupervised, peering in the window wondering why they can’t come in from snack?
We’ve all been in some kind of situation like this, I’m sure. It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. And it makes you want to avoid this parent for the rest of the year! But you can’t. So here’s some things I’ve learned about dealing with angry parents.
On the first day of school set up your expectations of how parents should meet with you. I always tell my parents that bombarding me without expecting a meeting will never result in the outcome either of us will like. When I’m prepared for a meeting, my mind is cleared of my to-do list, I’m not planning for tomorrow’s math lesson, and I am present and focused on the parent who wants to meet without any distractions.
Another thing to consider is many parents just want to vent to you. They are upset about something that has to do with their precious child, and they want you to listen. Sometimes just by listening to an angry parent and nodding along (even when you’d rather be grading papers or taking down a bulletin board), can extinguish a heated situation like pouring water on a blazing fire. Listen, then acknowledge their feelings, and they will leave happy.
Let me give you an example. I had a parent who was upset about a student in the other class. Apparently their precious angel was not invited to a birthday party, and after days of tears the parent wanted to talk to me about it. So she made an appointment (yay), and she talked for about 30 minutes about how upset her child was and how left out she felt. When the mom was done talking, all I had to say was, “That can be so upsetting. I’m so sorry your child felt hurt.” And that was it! She didn’t demand that I talk to the other teacher and get it resolved. She didn’t want me to scold the student who left out her daughter. She just wanted me to listen and give some affirmation of her feelings. This won’t help every single time an angry parent wants to meet with you, but it’s worth a shot! Try that approach first. Then if the parent wants more, provide a plan of action to help solve the problem.