Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Families & the Community

Relative Control

September 29, 2006 2 min read

For many teachers, this time of year involves facing an occasionally hostile population: parents. In preparation for parent-teacher conference season, we asked Suzanne Capek Tingley, a former teacher and author of the new book How to Handle Difficult Parents,to share her classification system and wrangling techniques for a few of the toughest breeds (all of which can be either mothers or fathers).

THE INTIMIDATOR

The Intimidator

Characteristics: Often has a high-status career and sees you as a public servant, with the emphasis on “servant.” Tries to bully teachers. Balks when asked to help address problems: That’s your job.

Battle cry: “What are you going to do about this?”

How to handle: The first thing to remember is that you are a trained professional and this is your area of expertise. Outline the steps you’ve already taken to address the issue, and tell the Intimidator what you need from him. Be direct and assertive. If possible, give the Intimidator advance notice of low grades or behavior problems—the best defense is a good offense. If he calls you by your first name, do the same with him.

PINOCCHIO’S MOM

Pinocchio's Mom

Characteristics: Believes her child never lies, and will side with him or her against teachers—for example, accusing you of losing an assignment the student actually never turned in.

Battle cry: “Are you calling my child a liar?”

How to handle: Avoid a back-and-forth argument over who’s lying. Instead, focus on what happened. Ask very specific questions (if possible, directly to the child): “When was the assignment turned in? What did it look like? How many pages was it?” But don’t push for a full confession from the child. As soon as you can come to a resolution, let it go.

THE UNCIVIL LIBERTARIAN

The Uncivil Libertarian

Characteristics: Thinks kids should be allowed to do pretty much whatever they want: wear inappropriate clothing, use the f-word, moon the custodian—you name it. Undermines your authority to enforce rules by taking the student’s side.

Battle cry: “Freedom of expression!”

How to handle: Explain why the rule exists. The Libertarian may not understand what chaos would ensue if 50 kids were to do what her kid did. If necessary, become a broken record: “I’m sorry we can’t agree on this, but the school rule is...” Know when the meeting is over; you’re not paid to take abuse. If necessary, suggest she talk to the principal.

MS. QUIT PICKING ON MY KID

Ms. Quit Picking on My Kid

Characteristics: Believes you treat her child unfairly because you don’t like him or her. Complains that her child is being punished for something that other students have done without getting caught.

Battle cry: “Other kids are doing it too.”

How to handle: Ask for specifics: “What do you mean by ‘picking on her’?” The parent may not have asked her child to explain; once her complaint is more concrete, you can address it. Emphasize that you try to enforce rules as fairly as possible. It’s OK to admit that there may have been infractions you didn’t catch—that doesn’t change the fact that her child did something wrong.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 2006 edition of Teacher

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Families & the Community Opinion 7 Ways for Teachers to Truly Connect With Parents
For some parents, the most relevant question is, "How is your family doing," according to researchers working in an Oregon school district.
Laura Brady, Stephanie Fryberg, Hazel Rose Markus, Camilla Griffiths, Jenny Yang, Perla Rodriguez & Laura Mannen-Martínez
5 min read
Teacher communicating with a student's family
iStock/Getty
Families & the Community How Schools Are Preparing for the Perfect Storm of Holiday Travel and COVID-19
Schools are putting in place or considering measures such as extending holiday breaks or shifting back to full-time remote learning.
7 min read
covid travel img new
iStock/Getty
Families & the Community Opinion Families Not Engaging With School? Rethink the Problem
Parents are ready to support distance learning, but educators need to speak the right cultural language, writes a team of researchers working with an Oregon school district.
Laura Brady, Stephanie Fryberg, Hazel Rose Markus, Camilla Griffiths, Jenny Yang & Perla Rodriguez
6 min read
family remote ed Opinion
Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty
Families & the Community Washington State Kindergarten Teachers Ask: Where Are the Children?
Thousands of Washington’s kindergartners haven’t shown up or logged in to their public schools this year.
Joy Resmovits & Seattle Times
6 min read