Working with Challenging Parents

Ch. 2 Dealing with Anger

We're a Teacher-Parent Team

Teacher-Parent-Student Relationships

We must approach our parents like a teammate. Like any team, we'll have losing and winning seasons. Therefore, it's important to note that a group will process through five stages of behavior. These five stages of group behavior are:

  • forming--orientation process
  • storming--ariseal of conflict
  • norming--development of a bond
  • performing--productive phase
  • and adjourning--accomplishment of goals

When CONFLICT happens

Things to Remember about Anger

  • Anger is a natural response when one feels as if they are being attacked
  • Sometimes it's mis-directed
  • You can't control how a parent behaves, but you can control how you react

Get un-stuck in the Storm

When conflicts arise with a parent, and they will, remember that it is possible to cycle out of the storming phase by utilizing the following tips:

1. Remain Calm

2. Be Specific

3. AGREE with ONE item

4. Be kind

Practical Suggestions

What do I do?

  • When possible, schedule the parent meeting ahead of time. You want to have time to collect your thoughts.
  • Create an agenda of the specific areas you'd like to discuss with the parent.
  • Greet the parent at the door.
  • Sit at the student desks. You do not want to give off an air of superiority.
  • Provide a snack of some kind or offer a beverage. You want the parent to feel at ease. Cheetos puts everyone on an equal playing field.
  • Let the parent speak first.
  • Be sure to have open body language.
  • Actively listen.
  • Take notes for documentation.
  • Do not interrupt.
  • If you feel the heat start to rise, remember you are the professional in the room. You must act accordingly.
  • "I understand your concern. Here's my concern."
  • "Here's the plan" or "I made a mistake".
  • Be honest. No one likes to feel like they are being placated or lied to.


Gorman, J.C. (2004). Working with challenging parents of students with special needs.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.