How To Deal With Difficult Parents?

Dealing with difficult parents can be extremely challenging, especially if they constantly pressure you or make your life difficult. However, there are ways to deal with them effectively and manage your situation. This blog post will explore some of the best strategies for dealing with difficult parents. Keep reading for more advice!


Difficult Parents In The Classroom

Difficult parents always mean well–and don't always start 'difficult.' But you never know what they're going through personally, and more commonly, you never know what can make a parent's momma or papa bear claws come out.

Usually, you'd hear about this parent from other teachers who were a handful. Rude. Combative. Aggressive. Even litigious. In response, you worry, if just a little. You have enough to deal with, and butting heads with an angry parent–especially one angry just because–doesn't sound like fun.

So you keep calm and hope to ride the year out. Maybe won't call. Maybe skip parent-teacher conferences. You've even considered grading their child a little easier to avoid the hassle of it all.

We've all been there. Nothing can solve this problem (for lack of a better term, I'm going to keep calling it a 'problem' instead of 'growth opportunity' or 'challenge to solve'; insert your synonym as you wish), but there are ways to take the edge off so that you can open up the lines of communication and deal with the parent on equal terms so that their child has the best chance for success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Use mindfulness practises to notice and observe their behaviours without getting hooked or becoming reactive. Through mindfulness practises such as body scans, learn to recognise your own emotional experience and separate it from your parent's so you can recognise whose feelings are whose.

  • Put Things in Perspective. 
  • Keep Expectations Low.
  • Don't Fall Into the Guilt Trap. 
  • Let Go of the Need for Your Parent's Approval.
  • Be Direct and Assertive When Confronting a Difficult Parent. 
  • Set Boundaries and Expectations
  • Stay calm. It can be frightening and infuriating when a horrid parent starts criticising you. 
  • Learn to accept your situation. 
  • Don't retaliate. 
  • Look to your future with hope. 
  • Believe in yourself. 
  • Talk to someone you trust. 
  • Look after yourself.
  • Figure Out Your Boundaries. 
  • Limit The Amount Of Time You Spend Together. 
  • Pick & Choose What You Tell Her. 
  • Don't Let Her Sway You. 
  • Ignore Toxic Comments. 
  • Don't Take It Personally. 
  • Try To Be Empathetic.
  • They're self-centred. 
  •  Emotional loose cannons. They overreact or create drama.
  • They overshare. 
  • They seek control. 
  • They're harshly critical. 
  • They lack boundaries.

Strategies For Dealing With Difficult Parents

Keep Your Cool

Yelling at each other will accomplish nothing. Advancements can only be made when there is dialogue and understanding. When dealing with a difficult parent, teachers must maintain their decorum. Teachers must find a way to reach the difficult parent to help the student. Don't take their yelling personally. So often, a parent is frustrated and lashes out at the nearest person, you.

Build The Parents/Guardians Trust

One technique to build trust is to chat. Parents want to hear the good things going on in a classroom. They do not only want to hear from the teacher when something goes wrong or when the student is in trouble. Sending a quick note or calling shows the parent your interest in the child. A quick email or call to the parent saying that their child did a great job on something or performed a random act of kindness can go a long way in building rapport with the parent. It shows that the teacher is looking at all the good things a child does and not strictly focusing on the bad. I know that these quick little notes lead to a positive perception. Parents recognise that you are not out to get their child and point out every wrong thing a student may do.

Reach Out To The Community

Reaching out to the community can build great rapport. It is a win-win-win situation. Students win as they showcase their skills and gain the euphoria of helping another. The community wins as they see their young citizens showing concern for the community. The school wins as it can get great press, and the community may look more favourably on the school's needs. After all, the school is willing to help the community, so the community should help the school.

Show You Care

Parents want to see a teacher who truly cares about their children. As schedules come out only a few days before the start of school, meeting with the parents before the first day is impossible. On Back to School night, parents are greeted at the door and provided light refreshments. While reviewing important information, I try to include some of the positive things the students are doing – even though school has been in session for a week. My presentations stress a caring environment that will allow students to learn in a fear-free zone. I encourage parents to contact me regarding their concerns – no matter how trivial. The fact that I have a child who is the same age as my students and can relate to what stresses and pressures they are experiencing also helps.

Establish Your Authority

Another measure to present confidence and authority in a difficult situation is to look the person directly in the eye. First, looking the person in the eye shows that you are interested in what is said. You are concerned about the situation and actively listen to acquire all the information. Second, you show respect to the other person by giving them your undivided attention. What they say means a great deal to you. Third, "looking a person directly in the eye gives you an air of self-confidence and self-assurance." (80). This perception can help diffuse a difficult situation. You can turn a lopsided conversation into equal cohorts with a mutual objective by displaying self-confidence.

Speak With A Low Voice

Parents often feel that they must "go to bat" for their children. In many cases, the parents feel that the teacher has been unfairly pointed out and want this situation corrected. Too often, they ask too few questions to get the full story and make assumptions – often to the detriment of the teacher. They are out looking for justice before the teacher has had the opportunity to provide additional information or explain the situation. One helpful technique is for the teacher to lower their voice. Upset parents often talk at an elevated level and in an accusatory nature. It is quite common for the person on the receiving end of this conversation to become nervous. When one becomes nervous, coherent sentences are often lost. A person's voice can become shaky and lack confidence. With the lowered volume, the shakiness in the voice will become less obvious. In addition, the decreased volume forces the other party to focus more closely on what is being said. Instead of focusing on their needs or concerns, the upset parent must channel additional energy to listen to what others say. Furthermore, the upset parent will notice how loud they speak and how this will not benefit the conversation.

Realise Everyone Makes Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. Teachers have many responsibilities, and there are many opportunities for error. When a parent brings an error to light, the proper procedure for the school (teacher or administrator) is to be gracious and accepting of the information. If the parent is taking the time to bring attention to the matter, the school must be willing to put in the time to investigate. By acknowledging the possibility of an error and looking into it, the parent feels that the school cares enough to do the right thing. An investigation must be done promptly and the results shared with the parent. If the teacher has made an error, it should be quickly rectified and extend an apology. Teachers are not infallible. They make mistakes and must own up to those mistakes.

Show Empathy

The words "I am so sorry that happened" are highly effective. These six little words convey a great deal. First, it shows that you listened to what was said and are concerned about everyone's well-being. In addition to acknowledging what happened, you provide an opportunity to establish a rapport with the other party. The person has shown concern and would like to address the matter to alleviate or remedy it. Sometimes, the person wants a shoulder to cry on. Other times, a wrong may have occurred, and this person would like a remedy. Either way, you have put a priority on the person's situation. By stating that you are sorry that the situation occurred, you can calm an angry parent down and provide an opportunity to have a calm conversation to obtain the details. It is a highly effective way to have a discussion and increase relations. Chances are, whether you are a teacher or an administrator, you are sorry somehow. Another situation has come across your desk that needs your attention and is taking you away from chipping down the work you had previously committed to completing. It is like the comic strip – just when you think your inbox is empty, it is quickly filled up with new stuff. The basket is NEVER empty.

Use And Show Concrete Examples

 "I can't believe that my Jimmy threw a paper ball at Sally." Usually, I will overlook one transgression before a parent is notified. When I contact the parent and deny that the event is possible, I highlight the earlier instance where the student was reprimanded. For example, Jimmy decided to paint his sneakers with whiteout during a group presentation. Jimmy was asked to stop, and the incident was noted on a log. The next day, Jimmy did it again. This time you contacted the parent. She could not believe that he would do such a thing. I mentioned the earlier incident and how the behaviour did not change. You also noted another incident with a different teacher in his file the week prior. Highlighting these instances helped the parent see that perhaps little Jimmy can do "less than angelic things".

Set Up A Parent Resources Area

It has been suggested that a room dedicated to parents and equipped with many resources be available. It sounds like a wonderful idea and would be a fabulous thing to implement in my school. If possible, having a parent room needs to be an inviting place. A soft colour pallet on the walls, comfortable chairs, and computer access would be necessary. Resources for the parents should be grouped according to grade level and subject. Parents can see what the scope of the curriculum is. Past projects can be placed on display. Future projects can be listed with the hope that you can share parental expertise. I have seen parents come in and discuss their work experience and demonstrate how the current subject of study applies to real life. If there is something that a teacher would like parent assistance with, there can be a board to post the "position". Finally, the parents must feel welcomed in the building. They should not feel like they are outsiders.


Tips For Teachers On Dealing With Difficult Parents

No Surprises

It is probably the most important thing to keep in mind throughout the year: Make sure you keep parents apprised of any issues. For example, if you think a student has learning problems and should be tested, don't wait until the entire year has passed before suggesting it. You can often avoid problems at the end of the year if parents have already been aware of your concerns.

But even for teachers who've done a great job of keeping parents on board, some parents will "forget" that they've been informed of any problems at the end of the year. In these cases, it's important to keep a record of emails, phone calls, or other conversations you've had regarding the student's issues throughout the year.

Meet Face-To-Face With Parents

Invite them to meet with you rather than trying to resolve a problem over the phone or email. That way, you can show them samples of their child's work or records of attendance. You can also share evidence of the times you discussed the issue with them. In the end, it's usually easier for angry parents to say unpleasant things electronically than in person.

Alert Your Principal Or Department Chair To The Situation

If the parents have already called to complain, the principal may want to sit in on the meeting. If not, she may want to be available if you and the parents can't resolve the issue.

Listen And Ask Questions

Shake hands with the parents who come to meet with you and ask them to explain what they're unhappy about. Wait until they finish, and don't interrupt unless you ask for clarification.

Try To Find Things You Agree On

Make sure parents understand that, as the child's teacher, you'd like to see him do better, too. Be clear that your role is not to punish the child at the end of the year for not studying, not handing in work, or being absent. Instead, your role is to figure out how to make your child more successful in the future.

Don't Allow Yourself To Be Pressured.

A few parents may ask a teacher to change a grade or move their child forward even if they haven't fulfilled the requirements. You, of course, have to adhere to your professional ethics—and you don't want the reputation of someone who parents can manipulate. But, of course, if they want to, parents always can escalate the problem to the principal.

Know When The Conversation Is Over

In my experience, once most difficult parents have expressed their unhappiness or anger, you can all move on to find a workable solution together. Unfortunately, this is not the case with all parents. It's fine for parents to be angry, but it isn't OK for them to be abusive. If that happens and it's clear you're not going to agree, it's time to bring the conversation to a close. They may decide to take their complaint to the principal, and that's fine. That's how the system works.

During your career, you'll have many meetings with your parents. Most of them will be easy, gratifying, and pleasant—but a handful won't be. Knowing how to deal with difficult parents should be part of every teacher's skillset, so you can keep your cool while working to find a resolution in the student's best interests.

Meaningfully Involve Them

Keep your friends close and your difficult parents closer. Ask them to take on an authentic role in the classroom. Ask their opinion. Allow them to have a voice or show leadership. Please give them a role in what their child learns. A parent with zero authentic roles in their children's learning process is part of our challenge as educators. Help them find one.

Focus On Their Child's Learning

It is the opposite of teaching, where you focus first on the child and then on helping bring them to the learning. But, of course, in conferences and communication with parents, you can see the child and what's 'best for them' very differently. Still, academic work can be more objective in cases where talking to the parents is challenging.

When dealing with a 'difficult parent,' focus on the work and academic performance and what you and the parent and siblings and other teachers can do to support the student in their growth.

Even amid difficult conversations, always do your best to steer the focus back on the work and the child's relation to it. The former is data/evidence; the latter is the reason for the data/evidence.


Parents are often tough to deal with because they have their own set of expectations that may not match up with your needs or wants. It's important to be honest, and open about what you want from them by creating an atmosphere where it is safe for both parties to express themselves openly without fear of being judged. It might mean setting boundaries on phone calls or visits if these things don't align with the goals in place at home. We hope this article has helped empower you to control how much time parents spend around your children and allow you some insight into why parents behave the way they do when raising kids today.

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