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Dealing with an aggressive parent. Advice needed please.

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by Miss Fit, Sep 3, 2010.

  1. Nearly all the parents behave very well with the exception of one or two. With them everything is the school's fault etc.. However recently they have become persistent and are beginning to verge on the aggressive. A number of staff feel uncomfortable talking to them.
    How do you deal with aggressive parents?
    Do parents have a code of conduct?
    At what point would you say a parent had 'crossed the line'?
    Thanks for any advice
  2. Just started in new HT post - have been warned about one of my parents who can be v aggressive.
    No advice as yet but am watching this post with interest and am thinking of you - it's not a nice feeling when you are doing everything you can for their offspring.
  3. This is difficult as we are all expected to have good relationships with parents but some you may never win ....Inform parents of appropriate procedures for making complaints, your LA should have a policy which the GB have adopted. Have zero tolerance policy poster displayed in foyer and in your office. Have letter prepared along the lines of 'you have the right to ask questions re child's education but not to be aggressive etc' Say you will involve police if neccessary prosecution could be a possibility. Use GB who have a duty to ensure your welfare. Our local PCSO is very helpful and supportive, above all don't see these parents on your own, protect yourself and your staff. You can ban them from the site if necessary. When you do see them offer them the opportunity to come back and see you after you have done .......( in my experience they usually don't bother) or ring them at your convenience when they won't all uptight 'how is x finding things now? any further probs? no oh that's good'
    Good luck this is one of the most challenging aspects of the role.
  4. CherylSalmon

    CherylSalmon New commenter

    Having worked in communities with tricky parents for years, here's how I deal with this sort of thing - pick the idea(s) for the situation:
    1. Try to be warm and friendly. If they are challenging you with their behaviour, there's a chance the last headteacher they spoke to excluded them from school.
    2. Say at least 2 positive things about their child early in the conversation. If they bring a baby, ask how old it is, tell them how pretty it is, ask if it's sleeping through the night. Have a supply of baby/toddler games and toys in your room to keep little ones busy so they don't tear round your office or shriek/whine.
    3. Remind them you work for their child and want the best for them.
    4. Have a clear notice about not tolerating aggressive behaviour on display and draw attention to it if necessary.
    5. If a parent has a history of physical violence, always have at least one other person with you when you meet them, and if necessary a couple of other staff outside.
    6. If you feel threatened, say "I'm sorry, but I'll have to close this meeting and fix it for another time unless we can calm things down".
    7. Remember that you don't have to put up with aggressive behaviour on site - you can withdraw your permission for a parent to be on site in a formal letter. This is usually very inconvenient for and usually results in a change of attitude on their part; never rescind this unless you have a formal meeting with a governor present where the aggressive parent gives undertakings not to repeat the behaviour. Choose the governor with care!
    8. Invite the parent to a meeting with a Police Community Support Officer if you need extra reassurance...many of these kinds of parents are known to the police and don't want anything else added to their track record.
    9. A strategy which can work well is to get a fairly stroppy parent on board as a governor, and ask him/her (usually her) to meet with a difficult parent privately. Introduce them, then leave them to it (having briefed the parent governor first). As you withdraw, you may hear the chat start with: "Now look here, you silly f***ing cow, what are you playing at?" as I once did. Worked like a charm. Obviously, don't leave the governor in a potentially threatening situation.
    10. If issues with a particular parent are ongoing and you feel harassed, ask your Local Authority how they will support you (they may have a mediation/parent partnership service), make sure your governors are involved, and involve your professional association. Your employer has a duty of care towards you.
    Remember it's them that's the problem, not you..you're not responsible for the challenges they face...remind yourself of a few things you feel proud of before a meeting of this kind. Hope some of these ideas help!
  5. CherylSalmon

    CherylSalmon New commenter

    Elaine - amazing that we were both writing out the same sort of things to help a colleague at the same sort of time ie, half past midnight on a Friday!! You don't have to be mad to do this job, but if you are, it helps!
  6. Thanks very much for the replies. I tend to be able to tune out from 'parent rantings'-you know when it's important and when it's just gobshite unfortunately a number of new/younger members of staff take things very personally.
    My bottom line is 'if you couldn't get away with doing in the street then don't think you can get away with it here just because it's a school'.
    If some nutter shouted in my face in the street and was behaving aggressively i'd phone the police and as far as I know the same laws apply on school premises. Last weekend at the train station the office worker who was being abused because the ticket machine didn't work retorted 'shut up and get out or I'll phone the police'. He got out.
    I think we have a duty of care to other children because I wouldn't want mine listening to some nut job with an attention seeking disorder yelling at the top of her voice.
    PS Is there a correlation between parental employment (or lack of it) and the number of times a parent complains?
  7. anon2799

    anon2799 New commenter

    I wish there was Missfit ( although maybe I don't as the majority of my parents don't work). The worst parents I've ever had to deal with both worked in schools themselves- you'd think they'd know better but they didn't. One was so vile she was banned from premises and I ended up calling the police when she tried to come and have a go. Use legal services and your union. I can empathise with the less experienced members of staff, I used to take things to heart, now Im more pragmatic about things. My parent from hell was truly awful and had been banned from several doctors surgeries etc. Even when complaints were investigated fully, by the LA with no case to answer, she wouldn't give up. In the end the governors would respond with a letter along the lines of " the governing body acknowledges your letter, but as this matter has been investigated fully by the LA and they have found no case to answer, there will be no further investigation. After a few of those she stopped. It never ceases to amaze me that the real moaners never take their children out of school, which I would if I was so unhappy.
  8. Our governors have agreed a 'Positive Communications Policy' to tackle this issue and to ensure approrpiate communication between all stakeholders. Staff can have this on hand to share with parents and end discussions if they become abusive. When we first ratified it, I sent a copy to all parents with an accompanying letter.
    Luckily it's very rare but I would definitely recommend having a policy.
  9. Hello all,
    Agressive parents are probably realising that they can't do thier job properly ..so they take it out on you.......so, how can they follow appropriate proceedures..... if they don't know how to behave responsibly. Policies are great as long as everyone understands them and they are not just P.C. 'claptrap' which nobody really understands or accepts!.
  10. I disagree. I think once you have established and shared a policy, staff have more confidence to end agressive conversations and request that an appointment is made with a member of the senior team present. Staff need to know they have governor and management support and agressive behaviour (verbally or otherwise) is unacceptable. The NHS have clear policies and procedures to protect their staff, schools need them too.
    An agressive parent may not follow the policy (hence them becoming agressive) but a member of staff should, and a parent cannot complain as staff are simply following agreed procedures. These sorts of conversations do not resolve issues and allowing them to continue will simply exacerbate issues and undermine relationships.
    And, the policy works both ways, outlining the expectations for communication of staff (and all stakeholders) towards each other. So, parents can expect to be communicated with appropriately too.
    Your argument is like saying there's no point in making laws because some people won't follow them. It's important to agree what you expect and have procedures in place if people do not behave accordingly. And, there are, of course, laws that protect staff from harassment and impose a duty of care on employers, it's important that staff know this and a summary of these is included in the policy.
    In addition, though I agree a policy is simply a piece of paper, the process of considering what staff should do in these situations is an important one. Having that discussion and sharing best practice is essential.

  11. Like CherylSalmon I deal with quite a few tricky parents and that is some of the best advice I have ever seen.

    One thing to add is that sometimes hoisting them by their own petard works too:
    I had a parent who was complaining that she was hearing about problems during the school day only from her child and not from us. She was abusive and ranting on the phone and I was glad I didn't have sit face to face with her. Rather than let us deal with minor and daily disciplinary issues in order that this child became more independent she insisted on getting involved in everything...alll the time. She would translate what we said into language her child could understand. Of course that meant everything got twisted and blah blah blah. So I agreed to fully bring her on board and make her an integral part of our daily minor issues. She lives 15 miles away and after four days of being called into school on a daily basis to "help" us, she turned to her daughter and said "look its quite simple do what you are told or get into trouble. Don't get angry and if you feel you need to talk to someone make an apointment for when you are calm and ask a member of staff to go with you. I can't be coming in every day and sorting everything out for you" We have had no trouble from either of them since.
    If they want more communication ring them daily..hourly even. If they want better grades send home piles of extra work with detailed instructions on how they supervise it (don't worry the student will only have to work really hard for one evening max in my experience).

    Both of these options are for when all positive and constructive tactics have failed by the way. It is, of course, better to bring all parents into the fold, but there are always a few who resist all attempts and for them getting crafty can be quite useful. If they are bright enough they soon get the point.

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