Dear Kid Whisperer,
How do I call or email a parent about a problem student without sounding rude, making them mad, or putting the parent on the defensive? What are some good phrases to use? -Scott, Columbus, Ohio
Without explicit training on effective behavior management procedures and strategies, you will struggle to have positive interactions with the parents of difficult kids.
So, it’s not just a matter of using effective phrasing, but of doing the right things with kids and thereby being able to communicate those things to a parent. Here’s an example of a conversation that I, as a fully-trained teacher, could have, and have had, with a parent. Hopefully this answer will not only lead you towards learning this new way of being effective with kids, but will also show you how effective you can be with parents.
Kid Whisperer: Hello, Parent. Now, I don’t want any of this to make your life worse, and I know you are busy, so I’ll be brief, but Johnny has been having a really hard time being kind to me and his classmates.
Parent: Oh, great. Here we go again. Look, he’s a perfect angel at home without any problems, and I don’t know what in the world you dummies are doing to him in school, but I can’t stand to have another year like the last one.
Kid Whisperer: I hear that. I’m a different kind of teacher. I don’t yell, I don’t punish, and I don’t use anger to get kids’ attention. I’m trained to get positive behaviors from kids without having to bother parents.
Parent: That sounds promising.
Kid Whisperer: Good. I just wanted to let you know that I always notice kids’ positive behaviors, and I did so with Johnny this morning. When he started to be a bit rude to me and to his friends, I did some interventions that are designed to gently guide him, without embarrassing him, towards being more kind. I even allowed him to use a Mindfulness Center in another room where he could get himself composed and come back the moment he thought he could be kind. Instead, he came back and continued to be mean.
Parent: So, what do you want me to do about it?
Kid Whisperer: Oh. Nothing. I just wanted to let you know what was happening. I told Johnny that he would have to do some learning about kindness later, and that he would have to solve the problem that he caused. During recess and lunch, he’s going to practice being near me while being nice, and after that, he’s going to do some work for me to de-stress me, since I get stressed out when kids are mean. Of course, he’ll get a lunch and will eat it while he’s practicing kindness. If he does a great job, he should be done this week. If he can’t get it done in time, I have time after school next week on Tuesday or Thursday if you’d like some free babysitting, or we can continue during lunch and recess. Like I said, I don’t want this to be a problem for you.
Parent: Tuesday. I pick Tuesday!
Kid Whisperer: Thanks. It probably won’t come to that, but we’ll see.
Parent: I hope it does. I need some down time.
Kid Whisperer: Great. Thanks for talking to me.
Doing effective things with kids can lead to having effective conversations with parents. Use these words as much as you can, but when you get all of the right training, you can all have all of the right conversations.