Needs Focused Teaching

Getting support from hard-to-reach parents


Hi All,

I will be releasing a Special Report later this week on ways to get support from hard-to-reach parents and I want to make sure I’ve covered all the bases.

To help me put the finishing touches to the guide and make sure it covers everything you need to know please add a comment to the comment box below. All you need to write is the #1 problem/difficulty you face when trying to get support from parents and I’ll do my best to add the answer to the report…

Mary says 13th April 2012

Parents who have serious mental health issues but no support. I try to find a support group and suggest they bring a support to IEP meetings.

Suneeta says 11th April 2012

Hi Rob! One of the my primary children is very weak in academics but excellent in extra-curricular activities. The child doesn’t pay attention in class at all whether it be activity based or lecture based except for coloring activity. Secondly, she ill behaves in the class too and starts throwing tantrums when scolded and starts shedding tears the moment she sees her mother (who is also a teacher ) she starts crying making false excuses. She is having friendship only with one child in the entire class as she is dominant too. This is affecting the other students in the class and they have also begun imitating her in misbehavior at times.
I have brought this to the notice of her mother several times, but she says that yeah she knows her daughter is weak in English but she has a good grasping ability. Only if she likes the teacher’s way of teaching she happens to be attentive as she did in Bahrain. But here in India none of us are up to the mark as per her requirements. How should I convince the parent about the child’s misbehavior and false excuses given against the class and make them to realise about it.

Caroline says 23rd November 2011

I am working in a school where English is not the mother tongue. English is taught as foreign language. To get parents to attend meetings or even one one one consultations they are not eager to do so. Whether it is for fear of showing themselves up or just not bothered about making any contribution to their child’s life is left to ones imagination. So with me then it is basically a language barrier. I have tried having an interpreter present but you lose much of the umph.

rodaina saleh says 22nd November 2011

one of the problems that any teacher can face concerning contacting parents is the parents’ attitude towards their kids’ education ;some people think that their resposibility ends at the gate of the school :they pay the fees of the school , buy the books , get their kids uniform , and drop thier kids off every morning to school;eduaction is the resposibiliyt of the school and teachers .Hiwever hard you try to let them understand that they should have a role in their kids’ learning , it is not of great use .This creates a sort of isolation between the school and the famil , and it also leads to let the child feel alone at home doing his homework or studying for his quizzes .

MARJORIE ROJAS says 22nd November 2011


marion golany says 22nd November 2011

At my school we have all possible varieties of parents, from the totally over-protective smothering kind to the ones who will return the kid all bruised if you dare to mentions/he misbehaved in class.
I find the main problem in approaching parents lies in the fact that no parent likes to hear that something is not 100% with the kid’s behaviour/learning. It is natural for parents to want their kid to be problem free. Many take it as a personal shortcoming or feel it reflects on them as parents and not everyone is mature enough to realize that good parenting also means helping your kid when things are not so easy. How do you approach a parent when there is a serious issue with the childs learning/behavior, without putting them on the defensive? In my experience it is extremely important to convey the feeling you are on the same team as they, that you, like them, want the best for the kid. Ask them to think with you about what might help the kid. Honesty also is key, telling what really is happening in class without exxageration but definitely also without covering up. Nothing is more devastating that believing you kid is fine for years and then suddenly hearing that the problems are large and many. (in a school like mine where there are no exams or grades, it is easy to keep things blurred). Over the years I’ve found some things that help but still my main concern remains; How to tell a parent there is a real problem without being hurtful (which would create an anti or make them defensive and lessens the chance of them becoming positively involved)?

Anne McMullen says 22nd November 2011

Irrespective of what circumstances a parent may find themselves in, they still want to see their child being valued and respected for who they are and what they can bring to a setting. Quite often a child can be labelled as having behaviourial issues and this ‘tag’ seems to be attached to them throughout their school years and beyond. Do we, as the educators, present a judgemental attitude towards certain children and their families right from the transition period in early years? Do we actually take the time to get to know families and make them feel welcome, giving them the opportunity to share what they know about their child?. What quality indicators need to be place during a transition period for every child?. Do we need to ensure it is not just a process which gives out a repeated message to some parents of the ‘us and them’ situation?.

Brendan says 22nd November 2011

Hi Rob, I love parents especially when they are challenging! Influences on parents/carers are many, drugs, poverty, lack ot transport, basic mistrust of the education system, usually brought on by a bad experience when they attended school. We need to regain their trust in an informal way (NOT a formal school meeting where the parent/carer is faced by 3 or 4 “suits”). We need them to understand their importance in the education process, working together with school and any other agencies involved. There needs to be more than one point of contact and more than one means of contact, txt, phone, email. grandparents can usually help as they are at home more! Taking a genuine interest in them and their needs helps also, empathise!!

Mentor says 22nd November 2011

Any suggestions on how to engage the assistance and support of parents who are quite literally at their wits end and are actually physically intimidated by their own children?

Magezi says 22nd November 2011

The biggest challenge we face around here are illiterate parents, meaning that they are clueless when it comes to education matters. For them education happens at school and therefore teachers and education authorities should deal with every issue concerning education and their children. I sympathise with such parents but we still have to find a way of addressing and educating them on the need to join us on this journey

Susan says 22nd November 2011

Parents who have an antagonistic point of view towards educators and the school and ignore all attempts at contact or meetings to discuss their children.
Parents who have given up on their kids.

Rhonda says 22nd November 2011

Working in an EBD school where children from K-12th grade are labeled in IEP’s as other health impairments along with the EBD and other disabilities, the parents or guardians are busy trying to keep financially stable, raising several children, others children, or even their own grandchildren, dealing with mental illness without the money to pay for the prescriptions, unorganized, constantly moving, changing cell phones, etc. Some parents have their own health problems, lack transportation, or are raising grand kids or even a second set of children while the first set is in high school. We have only 5 high school girls at the moment and currently one just had a baby, three are pregnant and due next semester, and the other is trying to get her own place. Parents are at their wit’s end in understanding what is wrong with their child. Some just do not wish to hear anything negative; others encourage their child to do the unacceptable behavior. The school is unable to have parental involvement during the day due to confidentiality of the other children plus liability in case a parent got hurt due to an out-of-control child. For after school activities, we have tried potluck dinners, gift cards, scavenger hunts and other incentives. Graduation from 8th grade is the largest turn-out of family we receive. Around here, graduating from 8th grade is a major deal yet finishing high school is not necessary. The district is wanting to cancel all 8th grade graduation saying it discourages children from continuing their education.

Now one must remember, the parents of these children may have been prostitutes, drug dealers/users, gang members, child abusers, in/out of jail, and even homeless. While some guardians really are reaching out to the child they are now caring for, not all fully understand the depths of the child’s mental illnesses/disabilities. Other guardians may be doing the service just to get the money. The children that live in the housing projects, homeless, with a guardian/grandparent, or one parent multi-child household, are seeking affection, trust and respect, yet do not trust, love nor respect anyone. Anger/frustration is deeply embedded both by parent/guardian and child over the path their lives have taken. The district is currently putting together a “Parent University” which allows parents to enhance their education free of charge. The problem is that transportation may not be available or the times classes are available, the parent is working.

I have always found it interesting how parents/guardians are constantly contacting their child during the school day via cell phone knowing cell phones are not allowed in the classroom. However, when it comes time to contact the parent/guardian for whatever reason, the phones are all disconnected.

Tracy says 22nd November 2011

The problem I often encounter is the lack of response from parents. Sending home notes, making phone calls, numbers changing and not answering the phone. Parents blaming others for their child’s behaviours.

Giri Kumar says 22nd November 2011

I have read all comments given above. I live in Chennai, India . Here the State Government has made education free up to college level .Added to this some children avail free noon meals with eggs twice a week . This has produced good literacy levels but not students good in their subjects or in overall personality and employable skills.. This is because we adopt rote memory system and nothing is done on their own i.e the student cannot write anything on their own . I generally feel that most parents do not motivate their children and are ignorant of the global opportunities. A teacher can bring about a change in the attitude of the student only when he is told how he can come up in life and bring about a change in the financial status of his family using education as a tool & leverage but how many teachers have the patience for general counselling?Behavioural disorders is generally an act of frustration and most students do not realise that much can be achieved if they listen to advice given.t

Lucy says 21st November 2011

Parents who do not support their children in their studies especially with assignments. You can tell which parents who are assisting with revision and those who are not. After exams/assessments they expect the best results. Then say that the teachers must be held accountable.

miss says 21st November 2011

parents who are on a mission to find something wrong with the school when their child has problems. parents who try to avoid responsibility for their child’s behavior by blaming everyone but themselves. And they are very vocal and skip chain in command, instead of working with the teacher and child, they go straight to the principal and sometimes even skip principal and go straight to the superintendent. and then they are allowed to skip chain of command sometimes instead of encouraged to follow chain of command. those same parents are vicious–they will demand to be allowed to observe their child’s behavior, then nitpick things she/he sees in the room which are not problems, but they will find something to latch on to and can find almost anything particularly because they do not know the class culture, expectations, so on. i find these parents the hardest because they are actively fighting against teachers and other school staff.

Fiona says 21st November 2011

Our school culture is one of parents who only send their children to school because it’s compulsory. They leave the minute they are old enough and do no further education. Many stop going long before the legal age; we have a very busy truant officer! The parents also encourage the kids to “stick it to” the school, so we know we receive no support from home in relation to either learning or behaviour.

How do we start to turn this around?

Carole Poche says 21st November 2011

I have found that when you have hard to reach parents, it is sometimes best when you offer incentives to get them in. Class prizes for the highest percentage of parents brought in, door prices, snacks, and such at parent teacher interviews. Phone them repeatedly until they are so sick of you they finally come in, drop by their homes or work.
The ones that I have found to be the toughest are moms of students with FASD that are embarrassed or don’t want to admit it. Some have been mistreated or have a total distrust of the school (and/or white people) in cases such as parents on reserves that were previously in residential schools and abused. There are all types. Trick is, you can never give in or give up. Some just are too busy with their own lives and are selfish…sometimes the end result is calling social services. If you have ideas to help, they are always welcome, we have to keep on it, it doesn’t go away. I also discovered that people will come in if you offer a free course that they can get a certificate for, such as parenting, traditional parenting, The Circle of Courage, Virtues and Tee Pee teachings. People like certificates to show how they are improving themselves, especially if they are free courses.

Peter says 21st November 2011

My #1 problem/difficulty I face when trying to get support from parents is threefold.

One problem is not being able to get in contact with the parent. They have no email address and phone is either not excepting messages or no longer in service. The parent gave me a new number and I was not able to leave a message because the person was not excepting messages at that time. I call everyday and get the same message. I have sent notes home, I have told a sibling to tell the parent to call me, progress report and report card both indicate the need for a parent/teacher conference.

The other problem I have is that parents say their child does not act the same way at home when I describe/discuss the child’s behavior at school. I find it hard to believe that their child is a perfect angel at home, but at school they are a little devil.

Third, when the child misbehaves during a conference with the parents. I mean if they act the same way in front of their own parents as they do with me in class, what am I to do?

Annette Poucher says 21st November 2011

Parents are the first teachers of their child. They are the experts on how their child learnt best as they went from 0 to 5. Whatever it is you need for parents to do with their child is an extension of that early care and love. Even if they are very unsure, break it down to the smallest thing they can do that will make the most enormous difference. They may have a friend or relation who can put in the extra time, their child is worth it. Sometimes parents as well as the students need encouragement.

Rebecca Tyson says 21st November 2011

In working in the school system, I have notices that parents really want to help their children but often don’t know how to apporach in getting help. Education is always changing. With the use of technology , some parents find it difficult to relate to this new style of teaching.

In culturally diverse communities, their are a numerous issue that may contribute the lack of parent involvement. Some parents may be intimidated when approaching teachers and school administration. The fear of being judged for not being well educated, may cause parents to withdraw from even trying. Parents that may have not been exposed to a solid educational background, may not have the means in which to help their child with their homework and other assignments. Also, some children come from single family homes. Their parents may have a multiple number of school age children in their homes, which requires working more hours and additional jobs just to make ends meet. When financial obligations increase , their child may be required to take on additional roles, in addition to their educational obligations . If a child has added responsibility often this affects their grade and their ability to stay focused on school.

    Anne Rutledge says 22nd November 2011

    I agree with these statements but how do we make that bridge to Parents to help them to realise that they complete the triangle of support for each one of their children and not just chilren who may be experiencing some difficulty.I do believe parents know their children are misbehaving but they also don’t have the ways of dealing with it. I have some challenging students also but they love to read to someone so we each have our own bag of books including many favourtes and ones we can read well. I believe that those familiar books are the key to reading success in my group/ Teaching explicit lessons about those books where students are involved with learning words they want to know plus words I am teaching them in preparation for their next stage of learning iks how they learn to read and how they are happy to learn.

Stephanie says 21st November 2011

My problem is children with bad behaviour. Talk to the parents does not help. They belive they are raising little angels. Anybody with some tips on this subject ?

Blackburn Huff says 21st November 2011

Too many parents are working today. I don’t blame them, of course. I know many of the parents will help if you give them some direction or goal.

Benny Purea-Ngatae says 21st November 2011

Sometimes you have parents whose first language is NOT English and so ‘hide’ behind that as a ‘barrier’ for not supporting their children (they don’t know what they need to do, even when you suggest things they could do).
Sometimes you have parents who look at you as if to say, ‘but that’s your job, you’re the teacher’ and not realising that with their home support, the child could very much develop better reading, writing and maths skills even further.
Sometimes it’s just a lack of interest because they didn’t do so well at school and they don’t see education as being the be all and end all of creating a better future for their children

    Anne Rutledge says 22nd November 2011

    I agree that it appears to be a lack of interest although I know from talking with parents, on the whole parents do care about educating their children. I believe time management is an issue as we all have to cram so much in but having set routines for your child including spending time for things they like is just so important.

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