This article was written prior to the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020
5 Factors to Consider When Planning to Calling Parents
1. Phone Calls Home May Create Unnecessary Stress for Parents
Many times parents are bombarded with phone calls and meetings from the school about how their child is behaving. While it is highly important for a parent to impress upon their child the importance of education, following adult directions, being respectful, and learning all they can to be a knowledgeable well-rounded individual; there is only so much a parent can do regarding their child’s behavior in an environment that they did not set up or create, filled with expectations and demands made by others.
It is great to keep parents in the loop about what is going on with their child’s education, but often parents feel compelled to fix a problem they have no control over, which causes them a great amount of stress.
2. If You Must Call a Parent, Be Thoughtful in How You Report Concerns to Them
If you must call a parent, be understanding, compassionate and non-confrontational. Tell the parent the areas in which their child is doing well. Offer help and guidance. If there is a problem, give suggestions for how you intend to support their child. Only make calls or send notes home for situations that must be shared with parents according to school policy. Handle what you can without parent intervention, unless a parent requests a higher level of communication from you. Sending positive notes to parents about their child is always encouraged.
Maria worked so hard in math today!
As an example of offering guidance and support, if your student is crying and scared throughout the day, you may call the parent to let them know what’s happening, and ask if something is going on outside of school, or if there is something you should know to best support the child.
If your student doesn’t want to do their math assignments, a phone call or note to the parent may include strategies the school will use to increase the child’s motivation for math along with math resources for the parent.
3. Don’t Just Make a Complaint About a Child to a Parent
A phone call about a child’s behavior or performance should not be a simple complaint that may leave a parent feeling helpless or overwhelmed such as “Johnny refuses his math work so I told him that was unacceptable and I would be telling his mom!” It is important for the school to treat the parent as a customer and put them at ease with a plan to support their child.
Parents can tie behaviors at school to positive or negative consequences at home; however, this is not always an effective approach, especially when the child is struggling behaviorally, emotionally or academically within the school environment and does not yet have the ability or internal motivation to employ self-control.
4. Teacher-Student Ratio Matters
It is extremely challenging for one teacher to have 25+ kids in a room who all may learn at a different rate, have different learning styles, different interests, a different home life, and may or may not not know how to communicate or cope when faced with challenges. It is unrealistic to expect a teacher to have a class of perfect little angels ready to learn, with no problems or disruptions in this type of environment. It is almost like setting the stage for failure.
Children may not be at a place developmentally, emotionally, cognitively, or academically to handle being in that large of a group with only one adult to support them. This is possibly a fundamental flaw in traditional education. This type of set up can easily lead to emotional breakdowns, resistance in the school setting, arguments among students, confusion, and students flat out refusing to participate. It is really not that unheard of or uncommon for students to struggle when placed in an environment like this.
5. Parents Can Provide Support But They Can’t Solve the Problem
We need to discuss alternatives to teaching our students how to be productive citizens, because parents cannot control what their child does in a system that they did not set up and that they have no control over. Yes, as I said, parents can impress upon their children the importance of being respectful in school and learning to the best of their ability.
Parents can work with their children on coping skills, empathy, and how to handle problems as they arise if the parents themselves know how to work with their child on these skills. But at the end of the day, the school system is creating the environment, and no matter how many parent meetings and parent phone calls you make, the changes may need to start within the educational setting.
Some children easily thrive in a traditional classroom setting and others don’t and that doesn’t mean that something is wrong with them or that they should be punished, it just means they might need a change to the environment or instructional approach.
If the needs are so severe that the school cannot provide the student with an appropriate education, it is important for the school to work with the family to obtain appropriate educational placement.
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Rachel Wise is a certified school psychologist and licensed behavior specialist with a Master’s Degree in Education. She is also the head author and CEO at educationandbehavior.com, a site for parents, caregivers, educators, counselors, and therapists to find effective, research-based strategies that work for children. Rachel has been working with individuals with academic and behavioral needs for over 20 years and has a passion for making a positive difference in the lives of children and the adults who support them. For Rachel’s top behavioral strategies all in one place, check out her book, Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children, a Guide for Parents and Teachers. If you want Rachel to write for your business, offer behavioral or academic consultation, or speak at your facility about research-based strategies that support children, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.