At some point or other in our career we will all have to deal with aggressive and upset parents. For the purposes of this article let’s consider how you, as a class teacher can best handle things.
There are 2 situations that can occur that will put you face to face with 1 or more aggressive parents.
- The parent turns up unannounced, more than likely at the end of the day but possibly before school starts.
- The parent makes an appointment to see you after school.
Then there are the other 2 variables
- Yes you do know what has happened
- No you have no idea what has happened or has been said by the child.
Let’s look at the easier of the situations
You receive a phone call from a parent who is clearly upset about something that has happened in school.
The best approach to this is to listen to the parent and let them go through exactly what they want to say (however loudly) – when they have had their say then it is your turn to explain the circumstances around any incident that has happened and of course give the accurate view of the whole thing. Should you not know about the incident then don’t be afraid to say so and tell the parent that you will look into it the next day and get back to them with what you have found. Thank them for bringing it to your attention. (make sure you DO get back to them when you have said as they will be waiting to hear from you!))
Naturally, if it had been a serious incident, then you would have spoken to the parent after school or telephoned to talk things through. The fact that you did not indicates that in your opinion it was not of such urgency or need.
Some parents will calm down after chatting with you and hearing the correct version (as opposed to the child’s version) of events – but others may still be concerned; and in this case you can reassure them that you will keep an extra eye on things and liaise with them to keep them informed : whereas others will still not be happy and insist on either coming in to see you or taking things further to see the DH / HT.
If parents do not calm down and continue to be aggressive then it is best to recommend that they make an appointment to see the DH / HT in order to clear things up. I would certainly advocate this if you know that these are parents of this nature. But do make sure if you do this that senior management is FULLY aware of all the circumstances of the incident.
However, if parents do calm down but would still like to come in to see you then go ahead and make an appointment to meet up. However, it is always prudent to inform senior management if you are at all unsure of how things will go or ask a senior colleague to be present at the meeting with you.
Parents that turn up unannounced and are aggressive or threatening
This can and does happen and I will be quite honest with you in saying that it is unnerving and upsetting.
In this sort of situation then there are some recommendations I would advise…
- If this occurs at the beginning of the day then politely ask the parent to call the school to make an appointment to see you as you have a class that is about to arrive and you have to prepare. If possible ask them if they can let you know what it is about. If they persist with the aggression then suggest that they speak to the HT and take them there.
If they have made an appointment or this is after school has finished
- Always listen and let the Parent have their say – never try to argue.
- Try to explain what may or may not have happened and any reasons or additional circumstances that may be relevant.
- If you do not know about the incident reassure the parent that you will investigate and get back to them the next day.
- Never involve or blame other children.
- Never respond to the raised voices – however if threats are used then terminate the meeting immediately and…..
- If the parent continues to be aggressive then tell the parent that ” in this situation it is perhaps best to involve Mr / Mrs …(HT / DH) to see how we can progress with this matter and then leave the room to find them. A quick explanation on route back to your classroom and you will have support. Allow the HT / DH to then control the meeting. (this sequence of actions are what I would also recommend if a parent becomes aggressive in the playground as you are dismissing the children at the end of the day)
- It may be that you ask the parent to accompany you to the HT office and to wait whilst you find the HT.. (explain quickly as they return to their office)
As a matter of course, all meetings and contact with parents in these sorts of circumstances should be noted and dated as a record of events. Do also be aware that some parents may well record meetings with you.
Of course not all your attempts to defuse situations will be successful and to be quite blunt about it,there may be times when you have no wish to meet with a parent who is extremely aggressive.
These situations are ALWAYS passed through to the DH or HT and they have more experience and also more powers to deal with this behaviour. You may be asked to be part of a meeting but senior staff will control both the content and the tone so you do not need to worry.
No matter how long you may have been teaching these are still upsetting situations and hopefully they will not happen to you very often.
Always remain calm and never react to the aggressive approach you may be facing. Do make sure that you feel and actually are safe. Try to explain and talk through any issues that may have arisen and give your reasons for any actions taken.
However, at any time, be prepared to refer this to senior staff, either because the immediate situation is one that you do not feel secure with or in the event of an upcoming meeting you would like some support or senior input.
Just a final couple of points to finish. Never worry about landing the HT with something at a moments notice – even if they have no idea what it is about (do try and give them a clue if possible!) they can and will handle it professionally – and lastly don’t be afraid to show how you feel to colleagues. Everyone has had this happen to them and you will be surprised how colleagues will rally round to support you when this may happen.
Try not to let it get you down….you will have forgotten all about it by next week!