Needs Focused Teaching

Classroom Management Strategies to Get Support From Unsupportive Parents


Before trying to find solutions to any problem it’s a good idea to look at the reasons why the problem is occurring; knowing why a problem is happening gives clues as to how to address it.

Today we’re going to look at classroom management strategies to get support from unsupportive parents.

There are many reasons why parents may not give us the support we desire but the one I’m going to focus on in this post is one of the most common – parent/s having a history of disheartening encounters with schools and education staff. If their son/daughter has been causing trouble in school for any period of time, they will almost certainly have had repeated contact with teachers & senior staff – and much of it will have been negative.

For example, they will have been regularly informed:

  • when their child has skipped class
  • when their child has failed repeatedly to hand in homework
  • when their child has been in a fight
  • when their child has been abusive to staff
  • and so on

They’ll no doubt have been summoned to numerous meetings to discuss their child’s future and will have a large collection of report cards, detention slips and warning letters. Focusing on what a student is doing wrong in school is, sadly, very common and in some cases parents may have had years of constant complaints about their child. Indeed, if they themselves failed at school (as is often the case) their opinion of the education system in general is not likely to be very favourable at all.

If you’ve ever had a bad relationship with your bank you’ll know what I’m talking about; you feel sick every time you get a letter from them. And no matter how many times they telephone or write, you still don’t want to speak to them – you open letters with trepidation, if at all. The last thing you want is to be reminded of the trouble you’re in. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to win the trust and support of some parents.

So how can we address this particular problem and get these parents on our side?

One of the first things we can do is set about changing their negative view of school and their expectation that every communication from school is going to be a negative one.

Easier said than done? No, not necessarily. Let’s go back to the bank analogy.

The way to restore you relationship with the bank when they see you as a huge risk and want nothing to do with you is to just to give them what they want and it’s exactly the same with parents who view school as threatening in some way.

The bank wants positive news about your finances – the parents want positive news about their child (and that’s true for parents who seem to have given up on their children too). But I know what you’re thinking: ‘How can I give them good news about Jonny? He never does anything good!’

Is that really true?

Every child does something to warrant praise at some stage and we must notice these moments if we are going to break the current negative cycle. We must look for, find and acknowledge positive steps and small improvements. Then we pass on this news to their parents.

This is without doubt one of the fastest methods I have found to gain the support and allegiance of very negative, hard to reach parents. I’ve tried complaining, I’ve tried ranting and I’ve tried telling them what they should be doing and none of it worked. What did work was passing on positive news.

Can you see how the following 30-second conversation will at least start to build bonds between school and home?

“Hello, is that Alison? It’s Rob Plevin here from the school. How are you? It’s just a very quick call to let you know that Jonny made some good progress today. I’ve spoken to his subject teachers and several of them have had good things to say about him. Ian Brown, his maths teacher was very impressed and asked me to tell you that he was very pleased to see he had brought his homework in. I was particularly pleased to hear that he kept himself out of trouble today in geography. He is working very hard to put last week’s silliness behind him.

So that’s it really. We’re all very pleased and I said I would keep you informed – be sure to tell him I called and spoke to you. I’ll give you another update in the next few days.

By the way, how did the party go? Jonny told me you had a lot of family coming over. Did it go well? Oh that’s great, I’m pleased for you. Don’t forget to tell him I called.


That call took about thirty seconds, a minute at most. What will happen if I was to repeat this simple process and make two or three of those calls in a week to a parents of my most challenging students? I’ll tell you exactly; they will start to view me and the school in a totally different light.

When you make these regular short contacts with home you begin to be seen as someone who cares – perhaps the only teacher who has ever really cared about their family. These parents start to believe, possibly for the first time ever, that someone in authority actually has their interests at heart and shares with them a common goal – the welfare and success of their child. The effect of this cannot be overestimated. Once the barriers start to crumble the parents begin to trust you, you have very powerful allies and they will help make your job much easier.

Currently when you look for support from home you probably get none – or very little. When you need the parent of little Jonny to follow up at home and ensure he faces a consequence as a result of something he did in school you get a brick wall or a string of false promises. In short, when you need Jonny’s parents to help you turn his behaviour around – you get nothing.

But when his parents see you more as a family friend than an enemy, when they can trust you, they will be more inclined to offer their assistance. They will know that you are acting with their interests at heart. They will be turn up for meetings more regularly and, most importantly, Jonny will quickly see that school and home are working together to help him succeed.

In our new report – ‘Get The Parents On Board’ we present a range of different methods to deal with the major reasons for lack of support from parents including:

  • Parents who see no value in education & have no interest
  • Parents who have no time – due to work or ‘other’ commitments
  • Parents who see their children as victims or ‘innocent little angels’
  • Parents who are ‘out of touch’ with the school system
  • Parents who aren’t yet convinced of the importance of the school-home connection
  • Parents who are totally opposed to education and encourage their children to behave similarly
  • Parents who blame everything on teachers and claim it is ‘the teacher’s job’
  • Parents who won’t answer the phone and won’t respond to letters or emails
  • Parents who have given up on their kids
  • Parents who are ‘scared’ of their own children

We also provide a STEP by STEP plan for making contact with these different groups of parents so that you can quickly build positive connections with them and get them ON YOUR SIDE.

If you’d like to read more about ‘Get The Parents On Board’ and get the following free pack of bonus tools and resources:

  • Positive parent log
  • Parent contact log
  • 2 sample letters to address student behaviour
  • 3 little-used (but very effective) ways to build positive connections between school and home
  • Secrets of a successful home visit
  • Invitation letter to a mini-workshop
  • Start of terms sample newsletter
  • 2 welcome letters
  • Reminders about belongings, school events, punctuality etc.
  • Resources to make parent/teacher conferences more useful for parents and their children

Click here for more classroom management strategies to get support from unsupportive parents

NB// members of Confident Classroom Management DO NOT need to order this report – it has been included in your member area this month as part of your membership.

Brenda Duncan says 21st May 2012

I would be very interested in buying a “bundle” of your past workshops and conferences.

robplevin says 5th December 2011

Hi Althea,

Yes, of course, by all means, pass our name on all you like. 🙂

Althea Pennerman says 4th December 2011

This is so relevant! I hope it is OK for me to share some of these suggestions with in-service teachers who are struggling to get support from parents/guardians.

Tanai says 24th November 2011

Dear Mr, Plevin,

I am grateful for this write-up. Your comments and suggestions on this particular topic I assume is relating to ‘Behaviour Management’, the ideas gave me insight to a situation relating to a case I had – involving a child with additional needs.

Your blog post has urged me to ask……….If you can share some suggestions on how to get parental support and involvement for children with additional needs.

Following is a brief background-comment on the case…..I once worked with a child with additional needs…meaning the child had difficulty reading and unable to express his ideas in writing. The parents were informed since the child was in Reception class, Grade1 and the parents….asked the school not to have the child repeat year1. The parents never came to the school when invited for [parent -teacher interviews], It was really difficult to get the parents to seek professional help outside school. The child was often taken out of school for family trips.

Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to help this type of parents take an interest in their child’s education at the same time help them to be aware of their responsibilities?

This case involves a family in a developing country where the child was placed in an .International School (English/British-curriculum].

I would be grateful…to have some information/tips.

If you think it is not appropriate to comment on this in this blog….can you provide some ideas to me personally via my email address!

Sincere thanks in advance.


Carole Poche says 22nd November 2011

I have my teachers keep a monthly call log.
They are to contact every parent they have each month, and give them good news and what is up that is positive. Also, if it is a negative call, then it is to be “sandwiched” – good, bad and finish again with good. But these calls are to be separate from the monthly positive calls. 🙂

Stephanie says 22nd November 2011

Thank you for the advise. I will try it. Now another problem i do have is a lot of sceaming shouting kidds that do not want to keep quite for one minute what can i do ?

    Dr. Mike Cubbin says 3rd December 2011

    Stephanie, once you raise your voice (yes, even raising it) you have lost the battle. The students have won. Think back to when you were a student. Imagine getting a teacher to scream. Wouldn’t you all be giggling and talking about you “won” at lunchtime? When they push you that far, you need to throw on the brakes, and stop. You are smarter, more well-educated and more mature. Look around. Make eye contact with all students – especially the good ones. And wait… and wait. They will not go on forever. Remember, you are the adult in the room. I have been a New York City teacher for 11 years, and trust me, I never lose. We need to remember who we are and why we are there.

Lucy Cyprian Mrs says 22nd November 2011

We run a small and new school in the Eatern part of Nigeria.We started a year ago. Now our population is close to 100 Pupils.Our major headache is the uncooperative attitude of our parents to comply with our vision and standard beside delay in paying school fees. How do we overcome this problem.

    amin says 28th March 2012

    I suggest that you should involve the parents in the vision exercise of your school and also involve them in setting the policies related to academics .


Katherine Brown says 22nd November 2011

Dear Mr. Plevin,

Our school has become “on the brink of an AU (Academically Unaccepted) school. We are now receiving students from other schools who are at their last stand. There is one who has a very bad reputation. He hits teachers and other authorities. He is a bully. He skips classes and he brags about it. What can we do with a child like this. It seems that his parent(s) seem to let him do whatever he wants. He has a history of having been in jail. He is on probation. What can we as a unit of teachers do? How can we successfully keep him in school when he clearly does not want to be there? Please email me with suggestions. Thank you.

    Katherine Brown says 22nd November 2011

    I forgot to add that this is a special education child.

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