Tips for Teachers Working With Difficult Parents (page 2)

By — American Association of School Administrators
Updated on Feb 18, 2011

Enabling Cooperation

Clear policies that are consistently implemented will help reduce conflict. So will acknowledgement by staff that the parents and the school are partners in the child’s education. Although some parents never will be satisfied, the following guidelines will increase your chances of home-school cooperation:

  • Begin with the premise that parents have the right and the responsibility to be involved in their child’s education. Not all difficult parents were born that way; some were created by teachers who were unresponsive to simple requests or hostile to parental involvement. Administrators set the tone in the building, so it’s important that parents perceive the school as inviting.
  • Be sure school rules are designed for the safety and welfare of the students and not just for the convenience of the teacher. For example, if 2nd graders are dressed in snowsuits, boots and mittens 20 minutes before the bus comes so the teacher can leave on time, parents may have a right to be concerned.
  • Insist parents follow the chain of command when they have a garden-variety complaint about a teacher. The principal’s first response should be, “Have you talked to your child’s teacher?”
  • Make sure your school has a clear, written process for parental objections to instructional materials. Don’t wait until a book is challenged to figure out how to respond.
  • Recognize that working successfully with parents is a legitimate focus for staff development.

Administrators can support teachers not only by intervening in a timely manner when parents are unreasonable, but also by helping teachers develop parent management strategies themselves. Teachers need to feel confident they can count on their administrator for support and guidance when the involved parent becomes the impossible parent.

Suzanne Tingley is superintendent of the Sackets Harbor Central Schools, P.O. Box 280, Sackets Harbor, NY 13685. She is the author of How to Handle Difficult Parents: A Teacher’s Survival Guide (Cottonwood Press 2006). E-mail:

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