How to Deal With Angry Parents A guide

Build Rapport and Relationships
  • If at all possible, be proactive and foster relationships with parents from the first day of school. Use social media, email, the school's web page, or other communication devices to let your community know you are there for them and that relationships matter and are valued at your school.
  • Begin with the end in mind and view this conflict as an opportunity to grow relationships with these parents (they are the ones that matter in this moment). Our approach going into conflicting situations will greatly impact the outcome (Giesen, 2008)
Show Interest in the Person
  • Whitaker (2003) states, "one of the best defusers in any situation is to apologize". By apologizing you show that the parent matters and that their concerns will be heard. Try not to be contrite in your message and Whitaker (2003) also suggests saying something like, "I am sorry this happened". This technique demonstrates to parents that you want to see things from their side.
  • It is wise to frame the problem or issue with a specific behavior, observable consequence, and how the behavior makes a person feel (Folger, 2013, p. 231-232).
Be Firm but Friendly
  • Tell the truth with kindness. When you do, you will "gain the respect of the listener much more than excuses or non-committal statements" (Parker, 2013). Nothing but the truth will show you respect others and in kind, they will return it.
  • Effective leaders "never argue, yell, use sarcasm, or behave unprofessionally (Whitaker, 2003). A sure fire way to lose respect is to behave in such a manner.
  • If it feels as if the is being rude or disrespectful, take the time to be firm, yet gentle, and say something like Whitaker (2003) suggested, "Please don't talk to me like that. I will never speak to you like that, and I will never speak to your child like that".
Seek Clarification
  • It is to our advantage, not to mention to the relationship in question, that we seek out all the facts, information and perspectives from all parties involved in a potential conflict before forming any opinions or taking any action (Giesen, 2008).
  • Use a reflective technique to ensure you have heard things correctly by either mirroring what has been said or paraphrasing in your own words what you think the speaker has stated (SkillsYouNeed, n.d.).
Listen...then listen some more
  • In order to fully resolve a conflict, we need to first identify the need that’s not being met and then negotiate from there (Geisen, 2008). This does not mean to take the time to complete a RCA but simply to remind yourself that there may be a root cause that needs ironed out first.
  • If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over (Matthew 18:25, NIV). The point here is to listen and you will will be heard.
Show Self-Control
  • We must model appropriate behavior and model consistently, if want to receive it in kind. Sometimes, we may feel like popping the bubble wrap in the factory, but we (I) "must behave professionally 100% of the time (Whitaker, 2003).
Know Your Triggers
  • Hot Buttons are the things that “trigger” you into sudden conflict (Leadership in Traction, n.d.). We all have them and knowing which one 'triggers' you and how to calm yourself can be a lifesaver in a conflict.
Follow Through
  • Follow through with any promises you made at the end of the meeting. You will only ever maximize a relationship if you can be trusted to do what you say you will do.
  • Folger, J.P., Poole, M.S., and Stutman, R.K. (2013). Working through conflict: Strategies for relationship, groups, and organizations. (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
  • Giesen, G. (2008). Eight simple rules to resolving conflict and improving relationships. Retrieved from http://www.selfgrowth.com/rint/569193
  • Leadership in Traction. (n.d.). Who pushes your buttons? Retrieved from http://www.leadershiptraction.com/hbas.html
  • Parker, W.D. (2013). 6 tips on dealing with difficult people. Retrieved from http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/9354
  • SkillsYouNeed, (n.d.). Reflecting. Retrieved from http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/reflecting.html
  • Whitaker, T. (2003). Dealing with difficult parents. Retrieved from http://www.nassp.org/portals/0/content/46790.pdf

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