Dealing with Angry Parents

Reflecting on the past year, one of the things that I had to quickly learn ‘on the job’ was how to deal with parents when they were upset or had a problem.

In some cases I did not do it as well as I could have. (I had one angry phone call from a parent that ended with me hanging up on her because she would not stop yelling) and in other cases I managed to deal with all people involved in a sensitive and appropriate manner.

I found this article simple but easy to remember.

Solving Problems:
Take the LEAP!

Early in her career as a school principal, a colleague shared with Deborah Harbin the LEAP method of handling upset parents. “And the method has always worked,” said Harbin, principal at Duryea Elementary School in Houston.The LEAP method is quite simple to remember:

Listen. “When parents are upset, they want to be heard. Many seem to think they must raise their voices to be heard. So listen — actively!”

Empathize. “Even if you think the parent is wrong or misguided, their feelings are real. Acknowledge that they are upset. Say something like I’m sorry this happened or I’m sorry you feel that we made a wrong decision or I can see you’re very upset. All of those statements help the parent feel like you are hearing their complaint.”

Ask. “Ask questions such as Is there is anything else you want me to know? or Do you have anything else that you are concerned about? or What is bothering you the most? Those questions help a parent feel you care and are concerned, and that their feelings and viewpoint are valued. Many times you get an earful, but that does help diffuse the anger.”

Problem Solve. “My favorite questions to end with are What do you want me to do? or What do you think I should do? Many times, parents don’t have an answer or a comment, but if they do I see if I can use some of their ideas in my action plan.

“As I end the conference I go back over what I am promising to do and, if appropriate, share a plan for how I will report back to them.”


About Pak Liam

Living, teaching and traveling in Asia.
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One Response to Dealing with Angry Parents

  1. bruce says:

    It’s never easy dealing with angry parents. I’ve been through far too many meetings with them both as a teacher and an administrator. The LEAP approach is a good one to use. Although with some parents especially in international schools, there are other issues involved in the parent’s anger and school just happens to be the easiest and safest place to vent.

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