While the end-of-the year craziness is in full-swing, I would like to give you some tips to help you effectively engage with challenging parents.
1. Communicate- This is almost ALWAYS the number one complaint of parents. They don't feel they are in on the information or part of the team. Really listen to parents and use the helpful phrase "I hear you". This phrase goes a long way. It doesn't say "I agree" or "I am wrong", it simply states that you are listening and hear what the parent is saying.
2. Scheduled Meeting- If you are caught off guard with an interrupting phone call or a parent who wants to meet on the spot, be sure to take a deep breath and take control of the situation. Use the "I hear you" phrase and add that "This is much too important to discuss now." Let the parent know you want to focus on their concerns, but can't do it at the present time. Recommend setting up a meeting that works for all of the team. Be sure to set up a meeting within a reasonable time frame and have another team member present.
3. Broken Record Technique- This is one of my favorite strategies that involves repeating what you want, time and time again. Use a neutral tone of voice and keep focused on your point. This technique helps to maintain the topic and ensures that the parent has a clear understanding of what you are communicating.
4. Fogging- Agree with any truth that may be contained within statements, even if the truth is critical. By not responding in the expected way (defensive or argumentative) the parent may cease confrontation as the desired effect is not being achieved. When the conversation is less heated, it will be possible to discuss the student more reasonably.
5. Common Interest- Keep the conversation student centered. The common interest should always be the student. This should include the whole child; educational, social, physical, and emotional. Always bring the focus back to the student.
Be strong! Sometimes parents are angry about history, personal life problems, or other things you have no control over. These behaviors may not change no matter what strategies you use. Be brave and remember that you are the professional.
These tough experiences help us grow personally and professionally. Take from it what you can grow from and leave the rest at the door.
**** Update: I was so excited to see that this blog post was featured in the September 2015 edition of the ASHA Leader!****