Dealing with Difficult Parents


Dealing with Difficult Parents

Teachers and administrators are more likely to be effective when there is an alliance between the school and the student’s parent or guardian. Over the past 20 years, that alliance has weakened and in many cases has broken. The result is parents/guardians who have a hostile, even adversarial attitude toward the school.

In this workshop, I share what I have learned from more than three decades as a clinician, as well as from my visits to more than 460 schools worldwide over the past 20+ years. I call attention to three varieties of “difficult parents”:

  • The arrogant and/or condescending parent. This parent – often middle-class or affluent – thinks that they know better than the teacher what is best for their child. This parent doesn’t respect the teacher.
  • Parents who hated school. These parents – often low-income – had bad experiences at school themselves, many years earlier. Some dropped out. Few graduated from college. They have a hostile attitude toward anyone associated with their child’s school, an attitude which may be due more to their own experience many years earlier than from anything that has happened recently.
  • The parent of the child who has been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. This parent is likely to say something like “My son can’t help it, he has Asperger’s.” The psychiatric diagnosis is used as an excuse for bad behavior.

I share strategies specific to each kind of difficult parent, strategies which change parents’ attitudes and restore the alliance.