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Dealing with Difficult Parents

Management Minute

The year 2020 has highlighted all of our teacher superpowers for sure.

We not only know how to teach, grade, and be flexible, but we also apparently know how to be on-the-fly tech masters and amazing advocates for our students, even if we are not in the same building.

However, a giant challenge remains—and may be increasing in difficulty due to pandemic teaching. What do we do with difficult parents?

Every school and classroom has them. The overly helpful mom. The micromanaging dad. The helicopter and lawnmower parents that make us teachers feel like a train wreck! These are not just elementary parents either—I have heard of parents trying to attend online classes for their high school and college-aged kids while the students slept!  

Yes, parents can be challenging. But, they are part of our job, and as partners in their children’s education, we must connect well with them. Let’s examine a few ways to effectively communicate and solve problems with tough parents.

First, begin with a biblical worldview. We all are made in the image of God. We all are loved by God. And, oh, by the way, we all are sinners as well. We all mess up. If we can keep these truths in mind (about other parents and ourselves), we can keep our frustrations and opinions in perspective, staying centered.

Next, remember the student is their child. When parents do things vastly different than we would have chosen, we must remember that, as hard as it is to say, these children are “just” our students. They are not ultimately our responsibility.

Sometimes parents use methods that rub us the wrong way. That is frustrating, for sure. But, the student truly is their child, and God has entrusted parenting that child to them. Our job is to respect that relationship. 

Third, connect with parents over shared goals. Generally speaking, the teacher and the parents have a shared goal—for the student to succeed. So, if we want to engage our difficult parents, even to the point of changing our classroom and school cultures, let’s truly involve them in making some goals.

For example, educators can find out what success looks like for that parent: Is it straight A’s? Not failing? Small improvements in one or two subjects? Peer relationships? Or simply showing up at school?

Once a few shared goals have been defined, the parent-teacher team can move toward them together. It may take several meetings, creative brainstorming, and teachers who are willing to listen more than anyone has before. But it will be worth it. A frustrating parent may seem a lot less difficult when we make them feel like we are listening to them.

Finally, be humble. Every family we serve has a lot to teach us. We can learn a great deal from trying to understand different perspectives, realizing that all of us (including difficult parents) have unique experiences that influence our viewpoints. If we try shifting our mindset from the role of the educator to the role of the parent in these meetings, phone calls, and emails, we may find that suddenly (almost without warning) all those “crazy parents” we have been dealing with start to make a whole lot more sense.

Linda Kardamis taught middle school math before founding Teach 4 the Heart. She is the author of Create Your Dream Classroom and Take Heart and Teach and the creator of Classroom Management 101. She and her husband are raising their four kids in northeast Ohio.

For additional help, listen to the Teach 4 the Heart podcast for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or at

CEAI Members with Coverage receive a 40% discount on all Teach 4 the Heart courses as a benefit of membership. Log in to your membership account at to access your discount code.


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