Dealing with Difficult Parents: Strategies for Positive Parent-Teacher Relationships

Dr. Karla Bester is an experienced educator with over 20 years of experience in the classroom who currently works as a Director of Programs for an education company.

Read on for Karla's strategies for building positive relationships with difficult parents.

+ show tags
Teaching Strategies:


Strategies for building positive parent-teacher relationships

As a teacher, you will likely encounter a range of parents and personalities throughout your career. While most parents are supportive and engaged in their child’s education, there may be times when you encounter difficult parents. Dealing with difficult parents can be challenging, but it is an important part of building a positive and productive relationship with your students and their families.

In this article, learn how to build a productive parent-teacher relationship that prioritizes the child’s academic achievement with tips and strategies for dealing with difficult parents throughout the school year.

1. Stay Calm and Professional

One of the most important things you can do when dealing with difficult parents is to remain calm and professional. Feeling frustrated or defensive when faced with criticism is natural, but it is important to remain calm and approach the situation objectively. Remember that at the end of the day, both yourself and the parents care about the student’s success.

Try to listen to the parent’s concerns without becoming defensive or argumentative, and respond calmly and respectfully. For safety purposes, if you are meeting in person, make sure to leave your classroom door open. If needed, consult with a teacher buddy and make them aware that the parent will be visiting and you may need them to remain in close vicinity or “remind you of an upcoming meeting”. It can be helpful for a confrontational parent to see the presence of another adult. 

2. Communicate Clearly and Effectively

Effective communication is key to resolving conflicts with difficult parents. Make sure you are communicating clearly and effectively with the parent, and take the time to explain your perspective on the situation as the child’s teacher. Use specific examples and be concise when sharing information. Two-way communication is important; acknowledge the parent’s perspectives and concerns, even if you disagree.

3. Be Empathetic

Difficult parents may have concerns unrelated to their child’s education or the school. Perhaps there is a situation in the home environment that you are unaware of. Take the time to acknowledge their concerns and be empathetic to their situation. Show that you care and understand their perspective.

4. Keep Records

It is important to keep records of all communication with difficult parents, including phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings. This can help you to refer to previous conversations and ensure that all concerns and issues are addressed effectively. Keeping records can also help to protect you and the school in case parental involvement leads to a legal dispute or complaint.

5. Offer Solutions

When communicating with difficult parents, try to offer solutions to the problem. Be proactive in addressing their concerns and collaborating with them to find a resolution. This can help to foster a positive and productive relationship with the parent. A strong parent-teacher relationship can involve problem-solving to find solutions that work for both parties.

6. Involve Administration If Necessary

If the situation with a difficult parent continues to escalate or becomes too difficult to handle, it may be necessary to involve the school administration. Administration can provide additional support and guidance in resolving conflicts and ensuring that all parties are heard and their concerns are addressed. 

7. Stay Neutral

As a teacher, it is important to remain neutral in situations with difficult parents. Remember that your main goal is to support the child’s education and well-being and avoid taking sides or getting involved in personal conflicts. Stay focused on your role as an educator and communicate with the parent professionally and objectively.

8. Follow School Policies

Make sure you are familiar with school policies related to communication with parents, resolving conflicts, and managing difficult situations. Follow these policies to ensure that all parties are treated fairly and that everyone is held accountable. Whether you are speaking to parents at parent-teacher conferences, on the phone, or via email, it’s important to follow your district’s procedures.

9. Focus on the Child

Amid a conflict with a difficult parent, it is important to remember that your main focus is on the child’s education and well-being. Make sure you prioritize the child’s needs and work with the parent to find ways to support their academic and personal growth. Whether you teach elementary school or high school, your job is to nurture student success.

10. Seek Support

Dealing with difficult parents can be stressful and emotionally challenging. Be sure to seek support from colleagues, friends, or a professional counselor if necessary. A support system can help you stay positive and focused on your primary goal of supporting student success.

Building Positive Parent-Teacher Relationships

Difficult parents are a challenge, but a common and necessary part of being a teacher. You can resolve conflicts and build positive parent-teacher partnerships by staying calm, communicating effectively, offering solutions, and remaining neutral. Remember to prioritize the child’s needs, follow school policies, and seek support when necessary. By following these tips and strategies, you can effectively manage difficult situations with caregivers and support your students’ academic and personal growth.

About the author

Dr. Karla Bester

About Karla

Dr. Karla Bester is a Director of Programs for an educational company, where she works with administrators, instructional support leaders, coaches, teachers, and students… Read more

loading gif