Opinion: How to deal with angry parents

by Darren Stevenson04 Nov 2015

Dealing with angry parents in a compassionate and professional manner is a necessary skill for educators and childcare workers. It could be a misunderstanding or something that has never before been brought to your attention.

You may not feel directly responsible, but if the parent has a concern about their child during the time in which you are responsible for the care of that child, it actually is your responsibility.

So when confronted by an angry parent, how do we encourage positive outcomes for all?

Parents often calm down swiftly when they feel heard. Simply being told you’re interested in hearing them out will go a long way to calming the situation. It never pays to become defensive with an angry parent.

It’s important to realise that they aren’t necessarily angry at you but meeting a brick wall will inflame them further. Don’t take it personally. Instead ask questions, identify the issues and find out if the parent has any reasonable solutions to offer.

Although you will want to collect some history and facts surrounding the situation before speaking to the parent, remember that quick responses are best. So do your due diligence rapidly.

Find out if there are any relevant notes in the child’s records and understand the teacher’s greatest concerns about this child, but don’t take too long. Never avoid or unnecessarily delay an angry parent. Always discuss their concerns as soon as possible.

Understand that the parent has received information from the perspective of their child. Like many adults, children find it difficult to process intent. They can take offence at the actions of others when no offence was intended. But the parent is upset about their child’s experience.

Be understanding when explaining that there was a misunderstanding. The parent just wants to know that their child important. On the other hand, be thorough; question and probe. Sometimes the child is spot on with the intent.
 
Other tips:
  • Listen intently
  • Talk in private
  • Show genuine concern
  • Say you understand
  • Allow them to get it all out
  • Foster a cooperative relationship
  • Keep the child in mind
  • Ensure you report back to the parent
 
Darren Stevenson – founder and MD of Extend Before and After School Care – has 25 years of experience as an educator in Australia and the UK, having served in five schools.
 

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