Parents are often upset or come to us with concerns. It is important to remain calm and non-defensive when this happens. It’s often best to return the parent’s call instead of emailing them. Occasionally it will be appropriate to email the parent, but first have someone else read through the email, and do not send it until you are calm. When talking to a parent, follow these steps:
Step 1: Listen to the parent’s needs.
Step 2: Repeat back what you heard; ask questions to clarify.
Step 3: Ask if they want your feedback. If they say no, don’t say anything.
Step 4: Take responsibility for your part, and be willing to apologize.
Step 5: Explain your policies and procedures with confidence.
Step 6: Be empathetic.
Step 7: When appropriate, be willing to compromise.
When Working with Difficult Parents:
If a parent is not being reasonable in their responses or it seems like it doesn’t matter what you do, try these tips:
Always follow legal procedures.
Stay focused on the child and his/her needs.
Listen to the parents’ reports and record them (i.e. if they say their child has a diagnosis, then record in your notes, “Parents stated child has a diagnosis of _____.”).
Be willing to listen to parental concerns and compromise when it’s in the best interest of the child.
Be professional, kind, clear, confident, and firm when communicating with the parent about what you’ve observed in the school setting, and keep information factual.
If needed, evaluate using observations, rating scales, work samples, etc. to show the impact of any reported diagnosis in the school setting.
If there is no impact, report the facts in a non-emotional manner (keeping in mind this is not your child).
If there is no impact, don’t argue with the parent about the diagnosis. Instead, just report that there has been no impact in the educational setting.
If you have educational concerns, evaluate and report those concerns. Make educational recommendations based on those concerns.
For clear documentation, include the information in meeting notes and reports using factual information only.
Be aware of any triangulation from the parent. If needed, designate one contact person.