Sometimes dealing with parents is more challenging than handling students! Lora recently asked the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE! for advice on communicating with parents who make false accusations, whether on a phone call with your principal, to other parents in the drop-off line, or during a conference or appointment. Here are the top tips shared to help you sidestep potential arguments and remain professional during a problematic parent meeting.
1. Gain Support.
Prior to the scheduled conference, meet with the stakeholders at your school in order to share your side of the story and gain their support. “Talk to administration before the meeting to give them the facts and set expectations.” —Sally
2. Don’t Go It Alone.
Make sure there is a third party present during the meeting. This practice can help you avoid miscommunications and hostility during the meeting. “Have a witness there—a counselor, teacher or principal.” —Nichole
3. Document, Document, Document.
Ask to have the entire meeting documented by using an audio recorder to curb any questions down the road. It’s also important to bring all documentation you have previously compiled on the student’s situation. This will help avoid the parent being able to make false claims like “My child says he didn’t cheat on the test” or “My child always turns in all of her homework.”
4. Listen Actively.
Sometimes parents need time to vent at the beginning of a meeting. Give them time to speak their minds without interrupting, even if they are making false accusations. It’s easier to gain a parent’s attention once they’ve had time to voice their opinions and feelings. It’s also less complicated to address a parent’s concerns when you know the full story.
5. Keep Calm and Move On.
If a parent becomes accusatory or aggressive, stay calm, and don’t enter into an argument. Instead, “gently remind the parent of your intent to help her child, and bring it back around to finding a solution.” —Kelly
6. Use Selective Silence.
Sometimes saying nothing at all can be very powerful. Rather than reacting defensively when a parent makes a false claim, a stern yet concerned look can be a low-threat way to gain control of the situation. “The more words people who falsely accuse must speak, especially if you refuse to address the accusations directly, the more likely they will be to say something to discredit themselves.” —Sue
7. Stay Child-Focused.
There are many opportunities for a difficult parent conference to become heated and go off topic. If your meeting gets derailed, “just keep reminding the stakeholders that the goal of the meeting is to help the student be a successful learner. If the meeting steers off track, bring it back with that statement.” —Lisa