By Andrew Pillow
There are few things more annoying as a teacher than the “perfect student.” That’s because obviously, nobody is actually perfect. However, there are students whose parents believe they are perfect.
These are the parents you hate calling to give a negative report because you know as soon as you tell them whatever offense their child committed you are going to get at best excuses, or at worst blamed. The parents may simply ignore what you say. Sometimes they might even flat out tell you that they believe their child over you.
I’ve seen these relationships get so bad that parents literally tell their child that they no longer have to listen to the teacher.
So, what do you do when dealing with the parent of a “perfect child?”
1. Spot the warning signs
Parents of perfect children seem to have the worst luck with teachers. (Sarcasm)
When you are talking to the parent of a student and you notice they go on rants about how awful the last teacher was… you might be dealing with a "perfect student" parent. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the last teacher the student had was actually bad. But in my experience, parents that think their child has never had a good teacher, typically believe their children do no wrong.
If you are dealing with a parent that volunteers numerous complaints about previous teachers prepare yourself and take precaution.
2. Make positive phone calls often
Many teachers don’t call home until there is a problem. While perfect parents are annoying, waiting to call home until the student does something wrong is actually poor practice.
Make sure your first contact is positive. Try and have way more positive texts and calls than negative. It’s harder for a parent to accuse you of “hating” their child if the negative phone call is sandwiched in between four good ones. There is science to this too. It’s called the 4:1 ratio. It suffices to say for every negative piece of feedback you give, you should also have four positives. We mostly use this technique with students, but it works on parents too.
It’s easy to tune out the parents of “perfect students” but that doesn’t help you solve the problem. As discussed earlier, these types of parents love to rant about what the other teachers have done. If you have a parent who does this then you should listen. Maybe even ask probing questions. Not because they are right, but because its an easy way to avoid conflict in the future.
I can’t guarantee that I will never have to make a negative phone call home. If I’m getting an earful about how Ms. Smith gave Ashley an assigned seat next to a girl she had a fight with in 5th grade, then I’m definitely going to make sure I don’t make the same mistake.
4. Join the fan club
Parents of “perfect children” love to brag about their children. Give them things to brag about. This goes beyond making positive calls about academics and behavior. Find cool and neat things that YOU appreciate about the student that parent may not have seen or noticed and share them with the parent:
“Hey Ms. Thomas, I don’t know if you know this, but I saw Ashley in music class and she’s really talented with instruments.”
“Ashley didn’t know I was watching her, but I saw her stand up for a kid who was getting bullied. I was really impressed with her character.”
Things like this go a long way. When a parent believes that you not only like their child, but think that they have the potential to be great, it becomes easier for them to accept you giving the student a reprimand every now and then.
5. Try to build a relationship
Many teachers shut down when dealing with these types of parents. They minimize contact and hope so-and-so behaves so they don’t have to deal with them. These parents are often relationship based individuals. Hence, the reason they believe the child, with whom they have a relationship, over the teacher.
Attempt to cultivate the relationship using the tactics above. Some parents just need that first teacher to open them up. Remember no parent actually believes their child is perfect. Their adverse reactions to teachers likely come from a variety of traits or experiences. If you put enough effort in the relationship you can create a pathway for honest discussion of a student's progress and behavior.
This list may sound like a lot. You may feel like you shouldn’t have to do it. I should point out that most of these things are simply best-practice for teaching in general. Instead of asking why some parents are so difficult maybe be grateful that many of them are easy.