Tips for Talking to Parents

Communicating with parents is a crucial part of teaching.  Your reputation and survival in this field is dependent upon the advocacy you have from the parents

Rules of communicating with parents:

  • Remember: they are the experts on their child, not you!
  • Listen.
  • Do not engage in an argument.  Ask for suggestions. Don’t be stubborn and look at it as a win-lose situation.
  • Be proactive; call often. Try to call all parents for many reasons, not just with bad news, but with good news, too.
  • Do not share your opinion or discuss your speculations. Stick to the facts.
  • Lead with compliments. “Hi, Mrs. Murphey. I am calling for two reasons today. First, your son is a real hoot, and I really enjoy him in class. There are days when he is a real asset to the climate of my classroom. Second, that same sense of humor got him in a little trouble today.” This is a focus on the relationship, not the problem.
  • Don’t talk about what other people are saying, or speak for your colleagues. If it gets heated, schedule a face-to-face meeting and invite your principal.
  • End with a question not related to the reason for the call. “So, how do you feel this year is going overall for your child?” This puts the power back into the hands of the parent.
  • Give parents time to process and ask if they want a follow-up meeting or call.
  • If it is something the student did, have the student next to you when you call. “Mrs. Murphy, I am putting Patrick on the phone, and he is going to tell you what he said in class.”  “Mom? Ah, I called Johnny a _______ in front of the class.”
  • Give parents tools and suggestions for supporting whatever the reason is that you called. “Mrs. Murphy, Pat is not getting his math homework turned in. Would it be helpful if I reduced the work load for him?”

About the author

The Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA) is a professional association representing schools, school districts, educational associations, consulting agencies and organizations. WSPRA is a state affiliate of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). 4797 HAYES ROAD | SUITE 103 | MADISON, WI 53704 | PHONE: 608-241-0300 | WSPRA@AWSA.ORG