One of the most challenging parts of teaching (and a skill that your training doesn’t ever really prepare you for), is how to effectively manage parents.
Throughout your teaching career you will encounter a wide range parental behaviour, ranging from those who show zero interest in their children’s education to helicopter parents that make your job a great deal harder.
Helicopter parents are bordering on obsessive in their approach to their children’s lives. The phrase comes from the notion that they hover over their children like a helicopter, taking in every detail and not allowing any independence.
As their children’s teacher, you are likely to face regular interactions with them unless you are able to deal with it in a way that effectively manages that time-consuming and often frustrating situation.
Here are some tips on how to work effectively with helicopter parents:
A narrow focus
Whilst you have the ability to see the bigger picture and how their approach to parenting is actually detrimental to their child’s development in many ways, parents are less able to see the holistic point of view.
Your time is precious but making time to listen to these parents can help to reduce the number of times that they bring problems into the classroom.
Of course, learning to balance that time will be the main challenge.
Discuss the importance of child independence
The level of independence that is appropriate will depend on the age of the class you teach but the need for increasing independence applies at all ages.
Sharing information regarding the benefits of independence in a child’s development can help parents to adjust their approach. You don’t necessarily have to do this as a one-to-one discussion, the school could communicate (via, for example, email newsletters or blog posts) the importance of allowing better development through greater levels of independence.
To add weight to the argument, sharing articles that explain how parents can positively impact their child’s learning – like this one in the Independent – can help educate parents.
Another good resource to incorporate into parent communications is the research behind the benefits of independent learning.
Work with helicopter parents to focus on the bigger issues
You may find that quite a few of the issues raised by helicopter parents seem quite trivial or are issues that all students are facing without additional support.
However, if you select a few of the more serious issues and channel their energy into those, then you can avoid dealing with the more trivial ones.
Problem solving should also help them to develop a process of dealing with their concerns, rather than just venting without any resolution.
Set boundaries early on
As soon as you see the characteristic signs of helicopter behaviours, set boundaries to avoid being overwhelmed by constant contact.
This includes not giving them your personal contact details, and if they are over-stepping boundaries by trying to take up your time before and after school, stop this from becoming a regular habit by setting a specific time period when you will be available to them.
Politely telling them that you have something urgent to do, or that you can pick up the discussion at the upcoming parents’ evening, can help to set what is acceptable and avoid them monopolising your time.
Talk to your Headteacher
Even though you might not feel like you need to speak to your Headteacher about the issue, just having a conversation will help to make them aware of the situation, particularly if the parents don’t take your hints.
The parents could also try to contact your Headteacher if you’re not available, or if they feel that you are not spending enough time devoted to their child.
Helicopter parents are a common challenge in the teaching profession and you have to work with them to allay their fears, and ensure that their children do not take up a disproportionate amount of your time. Hopefully, using these tips will help make the process a little bit easier.