One of the things principals dread most is dealing with upset parents. Being yelled at, threatened, or insulted is not anyone’s idea of a good time. Yet, the reality is that contemporary parents are intimately involved in every aspect of their child’s education. While Ward and June Cleaver let the school decide where to place Wally and the Beaver, today’s moms and dads want a say in how their children will be taught and by whom.
To successfully manage “Let Me Pick” parents, first try to understand what may be behind their demands for a particular teacher or class schedule. Consider the following:
Fear of the unknown.
Uncertainty creates anxiety. Not knowing anything about a teacher or whether that individual is going to love their child as much as they do can be worrisome.
Lack of power.
The more parents are told they do not have a say in something vitally important to them, the more pressure they will apply to be heard.
The rumor mill.
Rumors and/or a lack of factual information create preconceived biases and mistrust.
Parents may have had a bad experience with a teacher when he/she worked with an older sibling. Or perhaps there was a negative encounter between the parent and teacher in the community. Emotional baggage impedes rational thinking.
Higher than normal expectations.
In the past, parents like the Cleavers viewed schools in a broader social context. Today, parents want the best possible education for their own child and are not particularly concerned about what happens to the child next door.
Never take parent ultimatums personally or view demands as an affront to your administrative prowess. Before blurting out “yes” or dismissively saying “no,” however, think things through. The goal is to form alliances, not create adversaries. Surviving “Let Me Pick” parents calls for finesse. Here are three strategies to consider (tweet this):
1. Outwit: Post class lists or student schedules as early as possible. This provides time to hear from parents who are displeased and allows you and your staff some latitude in making changes that are in the best interest of the child before school begins.
2. Outlast: Set a school policy that parents must wait two weeks before any class changes will occur. This lets the enrollment dust settle and ensures classes remain balanced in the event you decide to make a change. Children adjust much more quickly than adults. By the time two weeks has past, most students have bonded with their teacher and made friends in the class. The request is likely to be rescinded if the student goes home happy.
3. Outplay: Even though a teacher may insist on keeping a student “to prove the parent wrong,” some parents might never accept the teacher. In fact, parents may even go out of their way to unearth all the teacher’s shortcomings. Parents who openly criticize a teacher in front of their child undermine the teacher’s credibility. This drives a wedge in the learning process and the student ends up the real loser. If your gut tells you this is the case, make the change.