Teachers are often stuck with the challenging task of telling parents things they don’t want to hear.
Telling a parent that their child is struggling in school, making poor choices, or is otherwise not perfect, can be hard.
Children are a direct reflection of their parents. So when we tell parents bad news, it’s easy for them to take it personally and end up defensive, angry, or hopeless.
With some simple shifts in our language, we can help parents understand our message and get them on board to support their child.
Make a Positive Connection
Before a parent can HEAR a tough message, they need to KNOW that you love and care for their child.
Every phone call, meeting, or conference must begin with the teacher sharing something positive about the student.
It can be something simple, but it has to be TRUE!
- You’ll never believe what Modise said during reading group yesterday. It was so deep and thoughtful that she sounded like an adult!
- I just have to tell you how much I appreciate Barry’s help with welcoming our new student. He has such a kind heart!
- The music teacher kept telling me about Nomfanelo’s singing talents. I finally went down to listen and she is amazing!
When parents see that you care for their child and view them as a unique individual, they become much more receptive to tough news.
When you share something negative, they’ll know it comes from a place of concern and care for the child.
Describe Without Judgment
When we are frustrated with a child’s behavior or lack of progress, it’s easy to use emotionally-charged or judgmental words.
Telling a parent that their child is lazy, disrespectful, hyper, aggressive, or mean can set off alarm-bells and make it hard for them to really hear and process our message.
Instead, describe the situation and offer the parents clear information about what you’ve been seeing at school.
Rather than: “Your child is rude.”
Describe What You’re Seeing: “I’m concerned about her relationships with other students. Last week, she told another child ‘You’re not cool enough to play with us.’ And this week, she teased a child for getting a bad grade.”
Rather than: “Your child is failing math.”
Give Information: “Here are Lerato’s last few assignments. I’ve been working with him in a small group, but here is his last test. He hasn’t mastered these concepts YET.”
When we describe and offer information, parents are free to make their own judgments, and we avoid upsetting or offending them.
In sharing learner progress with parents, give some specific strategies for helping them understand how their child is performing academically.
Speak Like You’re a Team
Another shift that makes a big difference is using language that shows you are all on the same TEAM.
Parents may feel overwhelmed, anxious, embarrassed, or confused when they hear about their child’s challenges.
Rather than: “YOU need to be reading with your child every night. YOU should have been practicing sight words at home.”
Try: “Let’s make a plan for how WE can help Ramees. I can work with him in a small group every day at school. Are you able to read with him for twenty minutes every evening?”
Make sure they understand that you are in this together to support the child.
1: Parent Perspectives (Mindset Shifts)
Discover the key mindset shifts necessary for building collaborative
relationships with parents.
3: Strong Start (Set Up for Success)
Start the year off with simple, but meaningful contact that promotes a year-long, positive relationship.
5: Clear Communication (What Goes Home)
Simplify your system of sharing information with parents and create routines that encourage participation.
7: Collaborative Conversations (Parent-Teacher Conferences)
Plan and host collaborative parent-teacher conversations that lead to
your intended outcome.
2: Prickly Partnerships (Handle With Care)
Learn the Do’s and Don’ts for maintaining respectful and friendly
4: Talking Tips (Words That Work)
Use language that allows parents to hear your message without feeling
defensive or attacked.
6: Student Progress (Make it Meaningful)
Share student growth and progress in was that parents can truly
8: Tough Talks (Tricky Topics)
Lead hard conversations in ways that encourage parent understanding
Remember, parents must ‘conspire’ with teachers for the good of the child.