3.3 Working with ‘challenging’ parents and carers
Reports from a number of teacher-professional associations suggest that there has been an increase in disrespectful and, sometimes, aggressive behaviour from parents and carers. This may occur on school premises or on social media. According to Wallace (2002, p. 10), triggers might be:
- money, particularly requests such as paying nursery fees or for school trips
- children’s behaviour, particularly when parents or carers react strongly to practitioner concerns and complaints
- increased inclusion of children with special educational needs, which puts pressure on parents, carers and practitioners because the policy has not been matched by monetary and other support
- parents’ and carers’ own negative feelings towards authority figures.
Dealing with this behaviour requires considerable skill and time, and practitioners are not always trained to cope. In settings where challenging parents or carers have to be dealt with frequently, difficulties can be minimised by:
- a consultation process
- working with the parents and carers whenever possible
- finding opportunities to talk to each other.
It is helpful to set out clear expectations and guidance for parents and carers. Policies on behaviour, use of social media and complaints procedures can provide a clear framework and act as a reference point for parents and carers, pupils, and practitioners. As a governor you may already be familiar with such policies, which would be set and reviewed by your governing body.
With regard to the poor press that parents and carers sometimes receive, Margaret Morrissey of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations brings proportion to the debate when she says:
The vast majority of parents – 95 per cent – are extremely supportive. As for the percentage who are not, they may not be interested, or too stressed or too busy. We look at what we can do to help them, rather than blaming them.