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Keeping your family-school partnerships strong

written & curated by michael grose & the parentingideas team
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19 January

Is the 'parent as enemy' syndrome killing parent-teacher relationships?

Submitted by:
Michael Grose
Last week an exasperated principal said to me: “Schools would be great places to work if parents would just butt out!”

This was an instinctive reaction coming on the back of a number of testing meetings that he had with parents. He really understands the value of working with parents, so this wasn’t a true reflection of his general attitude.

However, as I travel around schools it seems that some school leaders and teachers treat parents like they are their natural enemies rather than as the educational allies that they can be.

Here are five ways to change that mindset:

1. Remember the Pareto Principle
It helps to remember the Pareto Principle. That is, 80% of parenting challenges come from 20% of parents. Most parents are easy to work with and on your side. It’s the minority who fit in the parenting hard-basket and this small group can affect your attitude so adversely that you see all parents as hard work. However, your reputation will be built by how well you work with the difficult 20% of parents – the difficult to engage and the over-enthusiastic!

2. Don’t take conflict personally!
Some teachers take a personal affront when a parent lodges a legitimate complaint or even seeks out more information or clarification about their teaching practice or philosophy. Taking parent concerns personally is an indication of the ‘parent as enemy’ syndrome, rather than seeing them as allies or, better still, valued clients.

3. Put your game face on
It helps to put on your game-face when you meet with parents. That is, recognise that you have a professional rather than personal relationship that requires you to talk from your ‘position’ rather than your ‘person.’ This little strategy alone will go a long way to increasing your effectiveness when working with parents.

4. Practise client care
The key to working effectively with parents is for teachers to adapt a client care or customer service mindset. In fact, today a client care mindset is now a core essential for anyone who works with the public. More than having their voice be heard, effective client care ensures that parents have advocacy within as well as outside school. Parents need to know that someone is on their case when they or their child has legitimate concerns and difficulties!

5. What worked?
When a meeting or conference with a potentially challenging parent goes really well ask yourself, “What worked?” Reflect on the situation so you can identify the factor(s) that contributed to its success. This will help you be consciously competent (rather than be an unconscious competent), which will be the key to your exponential professional growth.

It takes energy… but expertise is the key

It takes energy, effort and expertise to work effectively with parents. As you begin a new school year, I urge you to continually grow your professional expertise working with your parents as it will also increase your personal effectiveness and wellbeing. And yes, personal capacity and wellbeing are inextricably linked.

Put Michael Grose on your PD team in 2015!

We’ve created a really cool PD section in the Parentingideas Schools website that even has individual partnership-building learning programs for graduate teachers, classroom teachers and school leaders as well as our usual videos and reading you can use for staff meetings and workshops. Find out more.

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  • parents
  • partnership
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