From time to time, you are going to have a conversation with an angry parent. No matter how hard you try and how much you give, there will eventually be somebody who gets upset for one reason or the other. Remembering some simple rules for dealing with angry parents can help you improve your parent communication skills.
Before you can begin to speak rationally with a parent who is upset, you must first try to discover the source of the anger. Knowing how a parent has arrived at their current state can be critical information in communicating effectively with them.
What are some common sources of anger in parents?
The parent legitimately feels that their child’s rights are being violated. This could be based on truth or there could be a misunderstanding. Gathering more facts will be helpful in resolving these issues.
The parent has learned to get what they want by being aggressive. This may be the way they were raised to “get things done.” These squeaky wheels just want to be heard. Listening and letting them vent usually does the trick. Setting boundaries is important so that they do not vent too much and disrespect you.
History of Negative School Experiences
Past negative experiences with the school setting may have caused a general mistrust in the education process. These parents seem to have a chip on their shoulder and you might find yourself wondering why you can never please them. You will need to continue to reassure these parents that you have their child’s best interest in mind.
Is it their personality or communication style? Some people are aggressive by nature and thrive on conflict and drama. Be careful not to be swept into an argument with someone who is looking for a fight. Set clear boundaries with parents who demand more than you can provide and who always seem to find a reason to pick you apart.
7 Ways to Calm an Angry Parent
1. Model appropriate behavior
Use a calm tone and do not allow your voice to raise if they raise their voice. Continue to smile and speak calmly. Use non-threatening body language that shows that you are open to what they have to say.
2. Validate their concerns
Let them know right away that you understand that they are upset and you would like to help. Ask for more information and let them know that you genuinely want to find a solution.
3. Let them vent
Listen and nod while they vent. Sometimes they need someone to listen. Letting them vent without being judged will be therapeutic for them.
4. Don’t take it personally
Remember that there are many reasons or motivations behind a parents anger that often has nothing to do with you. Knowing this allows you to take a step back and remove your emotional reaction.
5. Use positive body language
Show you are interested in what they are saying. Eye contact and leaning communicated openness. Be careful not to cross your arms or put your hands on your hips as these are seen as negative.
6. Set limits and boundaries
You make the rules for the conversation. If an angry parent is shouting, you can tell them that you will not continue to listen unless they lower their voice. If they do not accept the boundaries, end the conversation and say that you will reschedule a time to talk when they are calm.
7. Follow up with a personal phone call
Text and emails are impersonal. Tone and emotion are often misunderstood in writing, so a personal call is always the best way to communicate with an angry parent. Calling may be a bit more time consuming in the short-term, but this is one of the most effective ways to improve parent communication.
If your staff could use additional training on this topic, you could set up a time to show this presentation at a faculty meeting.
Check out more tips from one of our Confident Counselors Conversations: How to Handle a Phone Call from an Angry Parent.