How To Avoid Angry Parent Complaints

Smart Classroom Management: How to Avoid Angry Parent ComplaintsHere at SCM, we’ve heard horror stories about angry parents.

Teachers have emailed us to share incidents of ranting and raving.

They’ve shared how parents have interrupted their class and confronted them in front of students.

They’ve told of parents who’ve stomped into the principal’s office and even shown up at board meetings to try and get them fired.

In every case, it’s in response to how the teacher handled misbehavior.

And in every case, it could have been avoided.

Here’s how:

Get parents on record.

During the first week of school, send home a copy of your classroom management plan.

Include a page with a simple declaration that the parent has read and understood your plan.

Ask for it to be signed and returned to you.

The idea is to get parents on record of knowing full well the behavior expectations of the class and how students will be held accountable.

Review your plan.

In your correspondence regarding back-to-school night, be sure and let parents know that you’ll be reviewing your plan in detail.

This way, you’ll be on record as having given them an opportunity to learn more, voice concerns, or ask questions.

At back-to-school night, lay out your plan from beginning to end. Walk parents through the exact steps you’ll take when a student misbehaves.

Emphasize that the purpose of your classroom management plan is to protect every child’s right to learn and enjoy school. Finish by promising to follow it to a tee.

Be clear, speak confidently, and you’ll rarely get even a single question. You will, however, have parents thanking you afterward.

Fulfill your promise.

Now that you’ve publicly made a commitment to safeguard your classroom from disruption, you must follow through. You must be consistent every day of the year.

If you go back on your word, if you lecture, scold, or allow misbehavior to go without consequence, you open yourself up to complaints that are very difficult to defend against.

But here’s the thing: Being consistent is made easier by your promise.

You’ll remember all those signatures, all those faces you met at back-to-school night, and you’ll want to do right by them. You’ll want to be worthy of their trust.

The Way It Is

If you follow the guidelines above, you won’t get complaints. You just won’t—even if not a single parent shows up at back-to-school night.

However, if the unheard of happens and a parent does voice a concern, it won’t be about you.

It will be about your classroom management plan, which is non-negotiable. You’ll politely explain that you’ll continue to protect learning, safety, and contentment of every student in your class.

And that’s just the way it is.

In 99.9 percent of cases, parents complain because their child’s right to learn is being trampled on. They complain because their child has to endure an environment of chaos.

They complain because instead of having an impartial way of holding students accountable, the teacher berates and reprimands or ignores misbehavior altogether.

The secret to avoiding parent complaints is to lay bare the ins and outs of your classroom management plan from day one.

Get everyone on record—parents, students, and even yourself.

Then do what you promise.

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19 Responses to How To Avoid Angry Parent Complaints

  1. Amy Lemke February 6, 2016 at 9:42 am #

    Though I think this is sound advice, I also think there will be times when parents are upset with you, even though they are fully aware of your expectations and consequences. They will want there to be exceptions for their child and they will at times, not believe that their child is capable of dishonestly for instance. Oftentimes parents believe your expectations are too high or that your consequences are unfair. I find that listening is key. They will be upset sometimes, but if the teacher listens, conveys real regard for the child and the family, and makes clear their greater intentions, most parents come around and most you will never have a problem with in the first place. I always repeat to myself, especially with the most difficult children, “this child is their whole world and they are trying to do the best job that they can do.” If you can empathize, you can usually combat any defensiveness or anger that you might feel.

  2. C February 6, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    I don’t think it’s always about misbehavior. I’ve seen teachers react due to lack of “challenging their child” and for not liking a teacher’s personality…

  3. Cindy February 6, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    Have taught for 26 years and feel we are kindred spirits when it comes to classroom management! I have always been very good at communicating my behavior plan to parents, and the few times I have had parent complaints regarding the handling of a behavior issue have been because I did not follow my plan!! You are so right that consistency is the key!!!

    • Michael Linsin February 6, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

      Thanks Cindy. Indeed, it is so important.


  4. Takia February 7, 2016 at 5:16 am #

    And the fury of students how we avoid it.

  5. Craig Hutton February 7, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

    Although I like many of your ideas on how to build a respectful learning community. The problem with most discipline plans is that adult imposes things rather than working with the student. Any step-up system (meaning the consequences imposed on people increase with further more severe consequences ) causes the relationship between the imposer and the imposed to be stressed. I have found the eliciting of procedures and/or consequences if needed works to maintain a positive relationship and puts the thinking and responsibility on the student versus the teacher. The system I use is not a soft approach. Rather is approaches problems with behavior like a problem in math. The teacher works with the student to solve the problem. It is firm, but the child is included in finding solution to the problem versus the adult unilaterally imposing consequences. I like a collaborative problem solving approach versus a top down approach which even if the student knows they are wrong creates adversarial relationships which no one wants in a classroom

  6. Chuck February 7, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    I’ve done this, gotten signatures, had great sessions with parents at Back to School night, (the ones that showed up anyway), but I still got one of the worst parent emails last week. Granted it was not about my classroom management or anything. Rather it seemed he was making blind accusations on the basis of my sexuality (which he probably found out through rumors and internet searches) about how since I was gay, I must be sexually harassing his child (he never said it out right, but was complaining to my principal about how I was ‘making eyes’ and ‘preying’ on his child. He wanted his son out of my class. The mother in the family WAS present at BTS night and kept telling her husband I was an amazing teacher, so I will say this works for parents who do show up, but it’s not going to save you from all angry parents.

    I confronted the parent after school immediately after the parent sent the email, got him into a conference with a counselor at hand and the student and got to the bottom of the issue, which of course, was not a case of harassment at all, and the father revoked his accusations of me, (which he made without ever having met me and on the basis of my sexuality alone) saying his student having issues in class must instead be the fault of the principal for not stopping bullying in the school or some other excuse.

    Anything but the fact that his student was breaking the rules and he was not being held accountable by his father at home. Of course I never got an apology for the outrageous claims despite the father admitting that he “no longer things it’s my fault”.

  7. Liz February 7, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

    When I speak with parents I always say something to the effect, I know your expectations are must higher than this and you would be very disappointed in what happened and then explain, getting the parents on your side first and letting them know you respect them and that what their child has done doesn’t reflect on them is a big help. Once you win the parents over they are there to help you help their child meet your expectations!

  8. Anfaani February 7, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    I don’t believe that anything is 100% guaranteed in this world. No matter what is put in writing, there will always be parents/adults who do not read or feel that the rules apply to everyone but them.
    I have a problem with anyone being able to come into a classroom and confront a teacher. Not cool.
    You can decrease complaints, but you can’t eliminate them completely. It’s unrealistic.

  9. Celeste February 8, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    What to do when the behaviors parents complain about pertain to other children with special needs, 504 plan or special education, who have a different behavior plan and expectation limits than other students? (For example, a child with autism spectrum disorder might be allowed to tantrum outside the classroom until he feels calm. But what do you do if he refuses to go outside to tantrum and disrupts learning? What do you do for a child with Opposition Defiant Disorder who bolts from the classroom when things do not go his way and refuses to come back inside, refuses to go to the special spot in the classroom away from others, and doesn’t care about a note home and the behavior consequences at home? What to do when that leeway given for their special need affects the learning and behavior of the other students? A note home does nothing to impact these behaviors. If they are not being physically violent, state law does not allow us to send them home. ,

  10. Tracy February 8, 2016 at 8:10 pm #

    I am curious about how you would reply to Celeste as well. I also have students with difficult behaviours due to ADHD and Oppositional Defiance. Do you have suggestions on how to handle the situations where students with these disorders call out in the lesson? How do you handle the situations where other students become frustrated by the students who are calling out and causing a disruption, so the frustrated students begin to act out as well.

    • Michael Linsin February 9, 2016 at 7:47 am #

      Hi Tracy,

      This is a huge topic with many variables and extremely unique students and situations. It’s too big to cover in the comments section or even in an article, which is why I’m planning an ebook on the topic. (It’s number five on the list of future projects) I am, however, available for personal coaching where I can ask questions, truly understand the situation, and offer reliable advice. I have openings as soon as next week. 🙂


  11. Hind February 11, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    Thanks a lot Mr. Linsin for the useful tips that you have mentioned already, because we face such situations once in a while.

    • Michael Linsin February 11, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

      You’re welcome, Hind.


  12. Brittany July 12, 2016 at 7:47 am #

    Michael, you must teach at a school where parents are actually involved. Being an ESE teacher at a Title 1, grade D, low-income school, with primarily neglected minority children is a little different. Being forced to call DCF on a parent because they send their child to school with the same dirty diaper they wore the day before or teaching a self-abusive student and having the parent call the police when he scratches himself but YOU are being blamed. Or how about when a student is sick and throwing up in your classroom but the parent complains to the principal that they were bothered at work when called to pick him up. OR when you schedule an IEP meeting with parents and they don’t bother to show up, don’t answer phone calls, and don’t care to look at the agenda to see that their child’s future is being discussed in the meeting. So saying that 99.9% of cases can be fixed with your little “tips” is a little naive of you…try doing some real research before assuming that your way will work.

    • Michael Linsin July 12, 2016 at 8:18 am #

      Hi Brittany,

      I know you’re angry and frustrated, and I’m sorry you’re struggling, but please take the time and read through all of our materials. If you’re interested in research backing the SCM way, then please check out The Happy Teacher Habits. Also all of the strategies I recommend have been proven in the toughest schools. I’ve taught in the exact environment you describe for over twenty years—and continue to do so to this day. I assume nothing and test everything—over and over again before ever recommending it on this website. There is light at the end of the tunnel. You can have the teaching experience you want, regardless of how unlikely it may seem to you now. But you have to believe you can do it.


  13. PK July 28, 2016 at 3:36 pm #

    I need help I am a third-year teacher. 2 years ago I was bullied by my teammates and the person who was supposed to be my mentor. She went out of her way to ignore me and my questions, to leave me in troubling situations and out of events. My second year, after I was moved to another grade, she didnt speak to me. At all. My new team and grade is awesome. But I have her daughter in my classroom. Does anybody have any advice for how to handle this? Your help is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin July 28, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

      Hi PK,

      It’s important to treat her daughter exactly the same as every other student. I’ll try to weave this topic into a future article.