Having a friendly, positive relationship with parents as a teacher isn’t a necessity, but it certainly makes things easier. When you have troubles in the classroom, you have someone on your team that can work with you outside of the classroom. Additionally, an example of a positive adult relationship could be something that your students desperately need. To children, their parents are their home team and their safe space. When they can see that their parents trust you, they will likely follow suit.
How to build positive relationships with parents
1. Wear a smile
The best way to foster a positive relationship with parents is simple: smile! But do so genuinely — don’t wear a smile to appease your students or their parents, or to hide your true feelings. When you greet parents in the morning, exchange niceties and be mindful of your expression. When parents see you as someone who is cheerful and happy to see them and their child, they’ll be more likely to want to develop a positive relationship with you. Turn that frown upside down, and see how much of an impact it makes!
2. Learn their names
Addressing parents by their first names is an easy yet effective way to establish a positive relationship with them. When you take the time to learn these small tidbits, it shows that you do care. Parents know that you have an extensive list of names to memorize, so when you go the extra mile to do so, they’ll more than appreciate it. Before long, they may consider you a friend and not just a teacher!
3. Learn to communicate effectively
When we form new relationships with people, the first thing we do is talk. Humans are social creatures at heart. When we want to form a relationship with another person, we express that intent verbally. Even though you might have the best intentions, remaining quiet can portray you as pretentious or indifferent. If you aren’t the chatty type, you can start a weekly newsletter or email chain to at least keep parents in the loop. Many parents will see those efforts and appreciate them, resulting in a more friendly and pleasant relationship between you all.
4. Ask questions
If you hope to create a positive relationship with parents, you need to show interest. And the simplest way you can do that is by asking questions! Get on the same level as the parents and ask simple questions about their children. For example, you might ask who the child’s favourite YouTuber is or inquire about their favourite snack. This might seem like a small gesture, but it will move mountains when winning new parents over. The only thing most parents want is a teacher who has their child’s best interest at heart. If you can prove to them that this is your goal, you’ll be a winner in their book!
5. Don’t wait to call until there’s trouble
The worst thing you could do is to wait to call a parent when their child has a problem at school. No parent likes to have a conversation with a teacher about their child misbehaving. If you are only calling to report negative information, parents will dread phone conversations with you. Try surprising parents with a call to report exemplary behavior or something their child did that made them stand out against the crowd. Parents love to hear about their children doing great things. Pretty soon, they will start associating you with positive thoughts, which will only help your case when building those positive relationships that you seek.
6. Show genuine kindness and compassion for the child
A parent’s number-one priority is the happiness and well-being of their child. For this reason, it is not enough to simply be on good terms with them. You must also display a healthy and positive relationship with the child. Unfortunately, parents don’t often get to see all the action of the classroom, which is where most of your efforts go. Smiling at the child and having an overall welcoming tone is the best way to show parents that you are actively involved in their child’s well-being, as well.
7. Always start with the good news first
In the unfortunate case that you have to share bad news with a parent, always open the conversation with something positive. This information doesn’t have to be earth-shattering; it needs to soften the blow of the negativity. Try highlighting a good grade before jumping into the bad stuff. The parents might not realize what you are doing, but they will definitely be in a better headspace to take on the bad news you have to share with them.
8. Treat them like a customer
If it’s easier for you, try treating each interaction with parents as you would with a well-paying customer. This isn’t to say that you want to be transactional; rather, you treat them with respect each time you see one another. You wouldn’t wave a customer off each time they entered your business or ignore their presence, right? So don’t do it to your students’ parents!
9. Encourage feedback
Parents want to feel included in all aspects of their children’s’ lives. When it comes to sending them to school, they face the dilemma of allowing another adult to dictate their child’s time. For some parents, this can be challenging. An excellent way to encourage a positive relationship with parents is to ask them for their feedback. Implement an open-door policy in your classroom where everyone has a say. This doesn’t mean that you need to turn your class on its head, but if you’re willing to make a few small changes for the sake of the parents, it could calm anxieties and change their perception of you.
10. Try not to make assumptions
No matter how much you’ve seen (and as a teacher, you’ve undoubtedly seen a lot), you never truly know what a person is going through. It can be tempting to make assumptions regarding parents that seem uninvolved or apathetic. You must avoid this, though. Accept that you don’t have all the information about these parents’ lives and that you could never understand why they act the way they do. This would be the time to show kindness and compassion, no matter how hard it is to do. The last thing you want is to damage a potentially good relationship over false assumptions.
11. Show gratitude
Some of the most impactful words you can say to a parent are “thank you.” For as much as you do for their child in the classroom, parents do tenfold at home and on the weekends. When a parent takes time out of their busy schedule to help you with a task or open up a conversation, thank them! Showing gratitude proves to parents that you are genuine and appreciative of all they do inside and outside of the classroom.
12. Create a parent survey
Even if you have already opened your door for suggestions from parents, some will be hesitant to share their opinions. If you want to show parents that you’re interested in their feedback, consider soliciting anonymous surveys from each parent. This will provide them with a safe space to share their thoughts and will further prove that you see the value of their opinions and any feedback that they may be willing to share.
13. Create volunteer opportunities for parents
Many parents want to be involved in their child’s school life but may not have the opportunity. You can solve this problem by creating such opportunities for them. Consider asking for chaperones at a class party or volunteers to assist you with planning class events in the year to come. Even parents that don’t have time to dedicate to your cause will notice and appreciate your initiative. You are presenting yourself as someone who cares equally about parents and students, which will encourage positive parent relationships all around.
14. Listen to them
Nothing is more frustrating to a parent than a teacher that presumes to know more about their child than they do. Your teaching career has likely given you ample experience in dealing with children from all walks of life, but parents know their kids best. If a parent approaches you with advice or suggestions, listen with an open mind and let them know that you hear them and care about their concerns. Parents will be grateful that they have a teacher on their team that wants to work together to ensure the success of the student.
15. Have an open-house event
Invite your students’ parents into your classroom to break bread and share ideas. An open-house event is the perfect setting in which to do this. This will give you a chance to explain what you do in the classroom and what a typical day looks like. It will also allow parents a time to ask questions and learn anything they want to know about their child’s education. Don’t be afraid to allow it to get personal — revealing a little about your own life helps parents to see you as a person and not just an employee of the school. Authenticity is the best way to go.