A Guide to Dealing with Parental Complaints
As a school leader, dealing with regular complaints can be tiresome. You may have to deal with a complaint on behalf of another person on your staff. Or it might be about you, or the school in general. They can emerge from students, staff, parents or public in general. These complaints can be about students, staff, you, the board, your school policies, or school events. Some you might be ready for, others will come out of the blue and surprise you. The point is to have a process ready to follow for whatever turns up.
While handling parental complaints, why wait until things get complicated? There are several strategies you can employ at the start of the school year that could help set the stage for a term of problem-free parents.
When the communication is clear about what the parents should anticipate, things will go smoothly as planned. A timeline or syllabus of what you will cover in the year will help parents know what they can expect. Keeping parents in the loop from day one will show them you care and want them to be involved in their child’s education. This will also alleviate the anxiety of the unknown.
Invite them in the classroom
This doesn’t necessarily mean physically inviting a parent in to observe, but rather giving parents ways to connect with what you’re doing on a weekly basis. Use technology to your advantage. Create a group for parents online and keep them posted on activities of the classroom. This will help them feel included and in the loop.
Building a relationship with parents
Make it your focus to foster relationships with parents. This will help in the future when the parent has a complaint or an issue. At first meetings, create a positive impression. Regular interactions, showing that you care about their child, all this helps deter any difficult situations that may arise.
How to handle things when a difficult situation strikes?
Listen first and acknowledge
When the difficult parent approaches you with the issues, always let them speak first. Do not interrupt even if you know they have misconstrued information. It is vital to acknowledge the parent’s concerns before offering your suggestions. Even if you feel their concerns are ill-founded, this is still an essential step. It shows you have been actively listening and puts you and the parent on the same side again.
Do not be judgemental
It can be tempting to blame a child’s problems on the parent or even avoid or judge a difficult parent. But blaming is never productive. Avoid judgement, instead provide constructive suggestions that might help. Also, always keep up the positivity while interacting with a parent. They should understand that their child is on your priority.
Keep up the communication
Confirm to the parent that you will continue to observe the child and should anything arise, you will be in contact with them. After one difficult interaction with a parent, your first instinct might be to avoid them at all costs. But this is not the best response and may only lead to further difficulties down the road. Be conscious about keeping those lines of communication open.