It can be a nerve-racking experience.
Without warning, a parent appears in front of you. He (or she) is angry and wants answers. Right now.
Maybe he’s upset about a student picking on his son. Maybe he’s mad about how you handled his daughter’s recent misbehavior. Maybe it’s a homework issue, a test grade, or a misunderstanding about something you said to your class.
Whatever the reason, when confronted by an angry parent, your response should be the same.
Follow the seven steps below and you’ll be able to quickly calm angry parents, give them the answers their looking for, and turn them into lifelong fans.
Step 1: Just Listen
Your first step is to do nothing. Just listen. Don’t interrupt and don’t be in a hurry to jump in. Doing so will only make them angrier and more intent on making a big issue out of it. Respond only after they’ve gotten everything off their chest.
Step 2: Categorize
If the complaint is related to standardized teaching methods, curriculum, school policies, and other areas out of your control, then refer them to the principal without further comment.
If the complaint is in regard to your classroom management plan, homework policy, or classroom procedures, then politely explain why you do things the way you do. Without being defensive, educate them on how your program works to protect every student’s right to learn and enjoy school.
Be open, inviting, and personable, and they’ll walk away impressed with you and the way you run your classroom.
Note: Sending home a parent information packet during the first days of school will effectively eliminate most parent complaints.
If the complaint falls outside the first two categories, usually a behavior issue or incident, then proceed to step three.
Step 3: Empathize
Validate the parent’s feelings by telling them that you understand why they’re upset and why they feel the way they do. Keep in mind that just because something doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a very real concern to them.
Step 4: Take Responsibility
Whether or not you’re directly responsible for why the parent is angry is irrelevant. Take responsibility anyway. It’s the fastest way to diffuse their anger and is the right thing to do–for them and for you.
Simply say, “It’s my responsibility and I’m going to take care of it.”
Note: One of the keys to creating the teaching experience you really want is to take responsibility for everything that happens in your classroom. It can be both empowering and liberating. (For more on this, see Key #7 in the book, Dream Class.)
Step 5: Apologize
When you take responsibility, it’s only natural, and befitting, to apologize–even if you don’t entirely see things their way. You might say, “Hey, I’m sorry you had to come to me with this.” Or “Gosh, I’m really sorry this happened.”
Often, that’s all a parent wants to hear.
Step 6: Fix It
End your conversation by reiterating that you’re going to take care of the problem. But this time be specific. Say something like, “Rest assured, I’m going to see to it that Anthony doesn’t bother your daughter during reading time any longer.”
And then do it. Don’t let it wait. Fix the problem as soon as you’re able.
Step 7: Follow Up
After you’ve taken care of the problem, contact the parent to let them know. There is no reason to apologize again. And there is no need to go on and on. It’s over and time to move on.
Before ending the conversation, thank the parent for coming to you, and then ask them to contact you if they have any more concerns.
Note: The more inviting and accommodating you are to parents, the less they’ll complain, the less involved they’ll be in your beeswax, and the more they’ll want to support you.
Take Care Of Your Customers
It’s best to think of parents as your customers. If you take care of them, attend to their concerns, and make them happy, it benefits you and your business–which is to create the best learning environment for your students.
If, however, you greet their anger with some of your own, if you bristle, argue, or get defensive, then they’ll whisper about you to other parents and sully your reputation.
It doesn’t matter how off base you think they are, how rude they behave, or how badly you’d like to tell them to take a hike. You have the power to keep your cool, address their concerns with class, and turn their anger into enthusiastic support.
Thanks for reading.
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