8 Ways To Eliminate Parent Complaints Forever

Receiving complaints from parents can be stressful and make you lose confidence in yourself, especially if they’re leaked to other parents or fellow teachers. Worse yet is when a parent goes over your head and complains to your principal.

The best way to handle parent complaints is to listen politely, and then take action. Fix their problem, allay their fears, and do whatever you need to do in order to restore their confidence in you and your program.

Teachers who bristle and become defensive when a parent questions their teaching practices are making a mistake. If they’re not careful, they’ll find themselves in a protracted battle they can never really win.

Your reputation in your school community is critical and is never worth tarnishing, regardless of how “right” you may feel. Parents want you to do well, and it’s best to treat them like valued customers.

Still, it never feels good to hear from a dissatisfied parent. The best strategy, then, is to never give them a reason to complain in the first place. What follows is a list of eight ways to eliminate parent complaints forever.

1. Send a parent information packet home the second week of school detailing your classroom management plan, homework policy, and restroom procedure. Most complaints come from these three. Make the information contained in your packet clear-cut and simple to read. The reading time should be no longer than ten minutes. Send it after a full week or more of teaching the information to your students.

2. Include a signature slip at the bottom of the last page of your packet. Ask in the cover letter that both the student and his or her parent(s) sign the slip. It should read, “We have read, understood, and discussed Room 22’s parent information packet.” Use a dotted line and clear instructions that the slip must be signed, detached, and sent back to school. The parent, then, keeps the packet for reference. Allow your students a few days to return the signed slips, and then file them in a safe place.

3. At back-to-school night, thoroughly review the parent information packet and allow a Q&A period to clear up any areas of confusion. Tell your parents exactly under what circumstances you will contact them. Many complaints start out with, “I didn’t know this about my daughter” or “Why didn’t you let me know my son did this?” No one likes to be surprised.

4. Send home progress reports once a month. Use a simple form, a half sheet of paper you fill out for each student. You can make it a checklist if you wish. Just give parents the facts. Include number of time-outs, homework misses, and any poor test grades. Only write comments if they’re needed. Progress reports take little time to fill out and are so worth the effort. Require the reports to be signed and returned within a couple of days. Then file them for future reference.

5. Be an open classroom. Invite parents to visit any time and have chairs set aside for visitors. Don’t worry, they won’t barge in. Few will take you up on your offer. It’s the thought that’s important. It shows you care and appreciate their involvement. It’s the teachers who prefer to teach behind closed doors who find themselves in the cross hairs of unhappy parents.

6. Don’t yell, use put downs, or sarcasm. Besides creating tension, these hurtful methods don’t work in the long run and virtually guarantee that you will, at some point, receive complaints. And these types of complaints are especially embarrassing and nearly impossible to answer. Instead, follow your classroom management plan to the letter.

7. Use a simple homework policy. Make sure it doesn’t require parents to do anything except supervise from a distance. Too many students take homework home they don’t fully understand, and parents are left to teach it to them. One of the keys to getting homework back each day is to assign only what students have proven they understand. Homework is between you and your students. Parents shouldn’t have to get involved.

8. Make sure your students enjoy being in your class. Happy students equal happy parents.

Follow these eight strategies and you will effectively complaint proof your classroom. I guarantee it. If you answer probable complaints proactively, you won’t get any.

Thanks for reading.

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21 Responses to 8 Ways To Eliminate Parent Complaints Forever

  1. Martha Alexander July 8, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    I am a veteran teacher who found your website as part of a tech class I’m taking this summer. I really appreciate your management ideas. They are solid and clear. One concept that’s so important is that management should become automatic and not take a lot of our time. I’m sending this to my nephew, who is a school principal.

    • Michael Linsin July 8, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

      Thanks Martha!

  2. Elaine August 22, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    Hi Michael,
    I’m so glad I found your website. You have addressed so many questions and concerns of mine in your articles. As I embark on my 13th year of teaching, I plan to utilize your strategies in my classroom. One question, though. How do you handle “helicopter parents” who e-mail or phone daily for an update on their child? Thanks for your advice.

    • Michael Linsin August 22, 2010 at 10:10 am #

      Hi Elaine,

      I’m going to write about this topic in the near future. A few sentences wouldn’t do it justice. However, quickly, I recommend discouraging the use of email, setting office hours, and being brief, direct, and ultra professional.

      Michael

  3. Meredith September 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I love reading your posts, and find many of your suggestions perfect for my classroom! Recently, a student received a note home as his consequence (after a warning & time away). This student is talkative, and in the note the rule that was broken was stated, as well as a note saying he would have alternate physical activity at recess until the note was signed and sent back. The student returned the next day saying that his parent is not going to sign the letter for 2 weeks to teach his child a lesson. I find this harsh, and wanted to know your opinion. On one hand, how can I go back on the rule, on the other, 2 weeks of walking or running at recess is a lot!
    Thanks for your advice.

    • Michael Linsin September 21, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

      Hi Meredith,

      I agree with you. I wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying that out as a teacher at all. I’d tell the student that you’re satisfied that the parent knows about the behavior, then leave it at that. Also, I personally wouldn’t be comfortable using extra running/walking as a consequence. It could be construed by some as physical (corporal) punishment and thus is something I would avoid. Besides, there are other more effective choices for a consequence.

      Michael

  4. Trinh Nguyen November 30, 2010 at 4:06 am #

    Hi Michael,
    I found your articles are very helpful. Thanks for posting them. This is my third year teaching first grade in a private school. I need your advice on what to do in term of regaining my self confidence, image, and reputation when parents complaint about me to my principal. Could you help me? Thank you for your time.

    • Michael Linsin November 30, 2010 at 6:37 pm #

      Hi Trinh,

      Assuming that the complaints are classroom management-related, I have two bits of advice.

      1. Stick to the classroom management plan you had parents sign off on in the beginning of the year. (If you haven’t done this, do it now.)

      2. Be respectful to your students. Don’t argue, scold, yell, lecture, finger wag, use sarcasm, or react emotionally to misbehavior.

      By focusing on these two, you’ll gain confidence and rarely if ever receive a complaint.

      Michael

  5. Suzanne S. January 25, 2011 at 7:21 am #

    I am a parent and would like to add an additional suggestion: proofread the written material you send home. If you aren’t confident in your writing skills, and even if you are, it would be a good idea to ask for proofreading help from someone who writes better than you do.

    I came across this website because I have complaints about my child’s ninth grade English teacher. Sloppy writing makes a person appear to have sloppy thinking, and that is certainly not the impression you want to make on the parents of your students.

    • Michael Linsin January 25, 2011 at 8:15 am #

      Hi Suzanne,

      Excellent point!

      Michael

  6. Nefertari September 7, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Hello. Do you offer online courses for SBCEU’s? This would make an excellent class for ongoing teacher professional development.

    • Michael Linsin September 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      Hi Nefertari,

      I don’t, but I’ll look into it. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Michael

  7. brook tyler February 19, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    I think this is good, practical advice. I am also saddened to see that it underscores how little power teacher’s have in this day and age. To have to sit there and “listen” to some dysfunctional parent rant about something they know next to nothing about underscores this. Furthermore, you might say that this behavior encourages more entitled diatribes from a few generations of parents that think their snowflake is perfect and our job is to entertain them, give inflated grades and baby sit them. Well…you can see why I got out of the classroom. We’ll be under the yoke of the Chinese in 20 years at this rate.

  8. Cynthia October 5, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    I ran across this article as I was trying to prepare myself for an upcoming meeting with my sons’ teacher and the school principal – guess its habit being that I am an Analyst. I found it beneficial and will use some of the points highlighted here. Turns out my sons’ teacher has a reputation for giving exorbitant amounts of homework on a daily basis – INCLUDING WEEKENDS, hich keeps us up until 11:30, contributing to us being sleep deprived due to the fact that I get up at 4 and both my son and daughter at 5. He is also well known for being condescending towards the kids and even uses unhealthy fear tactics such as –screaming, and ridicullizing them in front of their classmates. Around the second week of school, he made my son call me at work to tell me that he had forgotten one of his homework’s – which he had already honestly admitted to me the night prior. Hearing my sons’ voice over the phone ripped me apart – he was truly distraught! On open house day I do recall some mothers sharing some of their concerns with me and even pointing out the changes in their kid’s behavior – but I quickly dismissed in order to not give in to a rumor mill. However, another incident happened to where my son did not follow instructions and he called him out in front of the class – took his recess AND gave him silent lunch. Which I am not opposed to – every action has a consequence (cause + effect = life lesson), but the way the way he called him out. He embarrassed my son so much that he started crying and to make things worse he mocked him and said that he could cry himself to the principal’s office, which made him cry even more. And no – unlike those parents – I am not under the misconception that my son is perfect, and that I should worship the ground that he walks on, rather constantly enforcing the importance of teachers and that he should always treat all of you with respect. However, I refuse to keep getting called by the nurse because of a headache, the erratic high fever, or the persisting stomach pain that magically disappears when as soon as he is picked up, nor be like that mom that has taken her daughter to the doctor 3 times for the same STRESS RELATED SYMPTOMS – 9 year olds should not feel stressed out. In a sense I feel bad because I went to the principal and shared my concern with her, but speaking to him about the volume of homework and how I believe he should send out vocabulary words in order for the kids to become familiar with the terms – got me nowhere but, “ I am giving them terms they should already be familiar with”. Hmmm – (an)…. how would a child that has been in ESL and is barely being introduced to English know how to fill in a blank with (an) when does not even know what it means? It is unfortunate how there are some teachers whom willingly use unhealthy fear tactics to “educate” our kids, and this is where I am obligated to intervene in order to stop this behavior. However, I am very thankful for those such as yourself that are passionate about what you do. Thank you, for putting up with our children everyday!

    • Michael Linsin October 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      You’re welcome, Cynthia! I’m glad you read the article and I hope it helps. I think it’s best to be direct and honest with your concerns when meeting with the principal and your child’s teacher. Given the information you’ve shared and the stress on your family, I think you’re doing the right thing in asking for such a meeting. I hope you’re able to resolve your concerns and get the answers your looking for.

      Best of luck.

      Michael

  9. Julie October 24, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    Hi Michael,
    I came across you website as I was searching for valiant reasons to complain about a teacher. i found your article to be informative. I’m a parent of a first grader. I’ve been volunteering in the classrooms at this school going on 7 years. On more than one occasion I’ve addressed his teacher about classroom assignments that are well over her students heads. She’s typically defensive and brushes me off with the comment of these are things the kids should know. I could agree with her thought process if only a handful of her nearly 30 students were struggling to comprhend, but I’m seeing that even her best students that read and comprehend well above first grade level aren’t grasping her assignments. In 90 minutes of teaching she only goes over instructions once to cover three of the four assignments that are to be covered. She oversees the fourth assignment, reading a book aloud to her. She only wants one parent in the classroom at a time to assist with the remaining students that are working on the other three assignments. I don’t know if I’m over reacting by feeling compelled to speak with the principal about my concerns I am witnessing as a volunteer in her classroom. My biggest concern isn’t just for my child, but of her entire class falling behind from her lack of instructing them on what she believes to be independent work which is more complex for her students than she’s willing to admit.

    On a side note, she makes the kids who don’t finish certain assignments to take it out to the playground to finish the assignments. For each assignment, the students are given a total of 20 minutes to complete the work. I guess I’m lost on if what I’m witnessing is warranted conserns or am I being an over active parent?

    • Michael Linsin October 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

      Hi Julie,

      It’s hard for me to give my opinion without observing the classroom for myself. It wouldn’t be fair to you or the teacher to comment on a situation I know just a little about. It’s probably best to give it more time. Perhaps everything will begin to make sense as the year rolls along and you see improvement in your son and the rest of the class. You certainly never want students to be completely lost, but challenge, and even a bit of struggle, is a good thing.

      :)Michael

  10. David August 21, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Hi, Michael. I was trying to access the restroom policy that is linked in the article, but the page is not found. Is there a way you can recover that page? I would love to read your thoughts. Thanks for your wonderful resources.

    • Michael Linsin August 21, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

      Hi David,

      Yes, it is the only article on the site that has been removed. There was some misunderstanding of the policy and how it worked, so I have resolved to rewrite the article and post it in the future.

      Michael

  11. Rain Somers August 24, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Hi Michael,

    How do you deal with busy body gossipy parents? I teach in a very affluent area where most of my 5th grade students move on to catholic or private schools when they finish. In order to be accepted into these schools they have to take the ISEE test which is a test that measures academic ability and not achievement. According to my research most students that are classified as honors or GT students don’t do well on these tests. Well, to make a long story short, I have two parents who are trying to destroy my reputation because their kids did not score well on the ISEE. They have complained about me to parents, other teachers, and also to other students. My administration and a lot of parents in this community that are very supportive of me, but these two parents are wearing me thin. I’m just at a loss of what to do. I’m to the point where I don’t want to deal with their children. As a teacher and a professional, it bothers me that these parents are making me feel like I’m inadequate and not competent.

    Oh, and thanks for this article and providing a forum for us to ask you for your advice. It is really helpful.

    • Michael Linsin August 24, 2013 at 8:37 am #

      Hi Rain,

      My best advice is to keep your head down, your thoughts about these parents to yourself, and do the best job you can for their children. This will enable you to block out the negativity and know that on your end you’re handling the situation with grace and integrity. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

      :)Michael