How To Deal With A Difficult Parent – Terry Heick

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You’d heard about this parent from other teachers.

That this parent was a handful. Rude. Combative. Aggressive. Even litigious. In response, you worry, if just a little. You have enough to deal with, and butting heads with an angry parent–especially one angry just because–doesn’t sound like fun. You don’t get paid enough for that hot mess.

So you keep calm and hope to ride the year out. Maybe they won’t call. Maybe they’ll skip parent-teacher conferences. You’ve even considered grading their child a little easier just to avoid the hassle of it all.

We’ve all been there. Nothing can solve this problem, but there are ways to take the edge off so that you can open up the lines of communication and deal with the parent on equal terms so that they’re child has the best chance for success.

12 Ways To Deal With A Difficult Parents

1. Reach out first

Be pre-emptive. Reach out with a positive message to start off on the right foot.

2. Don’t patronize

And when you reach out, be authentic. Don’t pretend to be their best friend, nor should have that “nipping problems in the bud” tone. Don’t worry about “holding your ground” either. Just reach out as an educator to a member of your own community. You’re not selling them anything, and they’re not selling you anything. You’re both dutifully and beautifully involved on either side of a child.

3. See yourself

No matter how important the education of a child is, realize you’re simply a single cog in the life of that family, no more or less important than keeping the lights on, their job security, food and shelter, or any other reality of daily life.

4. Give them something

Not an object–a “handle” of some kind to make sense of the learning process. Something they can make sense of and understand and use when they speak to their child about education. Something less about the game of school and more about learning, curiosity, and personalization.

5. Involve them

Keep your friends close and your…difficult parents…closer. Ask them to take on an authentic role in the classroom. Ask their opinion. Allow them to have a voice or show leadership. Give them a role in what their child learns. The fact that a parent has approaching zero authentic role in the learning process of their children is part of our challenge as educators. Help them find one.

6. Put them in a position to succeed

Just like a student, put the parent in a position to succeed. They may not have had a good experience in school, either as students, with siblings of your student, etc. Give them a reason to believe that you have the best interest of the family at heart–and that includes them.

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7. Don’t judge them, or “handle them.”

Meet them on equal terms. For all of our overly-glorified differences, most people are fundamentally the same. We respond to pain and threats differently, and have unique ethical systems, but it’s easy to place yourself above someone even if you think you’re not doing exactly that.

8 Establish a common ground

An old sales technique. A favorite athletic team–or dislike for a rival team. A personal philosophy. Your own struggle as a person. Something to humanize yourself, and establish the overlap between yourself and the parent.

9. Focus on the work

This is the opposite of teaching and learning, where you focus on the human being (the student). In conferences and communication with parents, you can both see the child and what’s “best for them” very differently, but academic work has a chance to be more objective. Focus on the work and academic performance, and what you and the parent and siblings and other teachers, etc., can do to support the student in their growth.

Even in the midst of difficult conversations, always do your best to steer the focus back on the work, and the child themselves. The former is data/evidence, the latter the reason for the data/evidence.

10. Give them reason to see beyond the grade book

This is partly the problem with letter grades. So reductionist.

It’s easy to look at a grade book and both start and finish the conversation there. If that’s all they see, have a look at your curriculum and instruction, and see if you’ve given them ample opportunity to do otherwise. Talk less about missing work, and more about the promise and possibility of their child. Help them see that the school year is a marathon, not a series of sprints.

11. If all else fails…

If you have to, call for reinforcements, and document everything. Never feel bad about having another teacher in the room with you if you feel like a parent will be aggressive and you’re simply not comfortable with it. Better to depend on solidarity and hope than your own personal strength.

And document everything. Stay on top of grading, feedback, behavior management, missing assignments, your tone, sarcasm, etc. Document every call and email. Save exemplar work. Document differentiation, personalization, and other individual efforts in pursuit of the best interest of the student.

Whatever you do, no matter your analysis of the proximity between apples and trees, don’t hold the difficult parent “against” the child, even subconsciously.

12. Take it personally, then don’t

If you have a “difficult parent,” and in spite of your best efforts it all falls apart, I’d say don’t take it personally but it’s hard not to. So fine–internalize it. Own it. Talk to colleagues (better than a spouse, whose emoptional reserves you may want to save for more pressing issues in education). Cry if you need to. And then let it go.

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60% of Small Business Owners Never Apply for Funding to Support Innovation

60% of Small Business Owners Never Apply for Innovation Funding

The Creating Wealth through Business Improvements report from BMO Wealth Management reveals 60 percent of small business owners never apply for funding to support innovation.

With the development of digital technology and advances in smartphones, apps, artificial intelligence, and social media to name a few, small businesses have to support and implement the latest innovation as quickly as possible. According to the report, innovation drives financial success for businesses of any size.

This is especially true for small businesses because the right innovation allows for the creation of new products, services and marketing as well as ways to reach consumers. In addition to the improved external capabilities, it also makes internal teams more productive.

Innovation Funding is Important

Even if small business owners would like to innovate, they are often either unaware or not capable of accessing the funds they need. In a press release announcing the results, Tania Slade, National Head of Wealth Planning at BMO Wealth Management (U.S.) explained the importance of access to information for small businesses.

Slade said, “Having access to information about funding options and support networks is essential to the continued success of a small business, particularly in its early stages. Business owners who take advantage of the numerous resources at their disposal have an immediate advantage, and a far greater chance of seeing their innovation initiatives realized.” The challenge is funding, but small business loan numbers are looking much better today.

The report comes from a survey conducted with the participation of 1,021 small business owners across the US. They were asked about keys to innovation success, experiences funding their innovation through business loans and grants, and knowledge of and participation in accelerator and incubator networks.



Key Findings

As to the 60 percent of small businesses which never applied for funding, owners gave a number of explanations for never seeking the capital they needed. More than a third or 36 percent said they didn’t want to incur additional debt, while 22 percent believed they would be rejected. Another 21 percent stated the process was too complicated.

Alternative sources of funding were also explored in the survey, including government grants and incubator and accelerator networks.

When it came to government grants, 34 percent of responding small business owners said they were not aware grants were available. Of a reported 44 percent who did know, they didn’t know where to apply.

The number of small businesses who were not aware of incubator and accelerator networks was high — 63 percent. And there was also a gap in this knowledge between men and women. Specifically, 72 percent of women entrepreneurs said they weren’t aware of funding options  from incubator and accelerator networks while only 54 percent of male entrepreneurs seemed unaware.

Why is Innovation Important?

The number one reason given by small business owners for implementing innovations in their organization was to meet the needs of clients. Sixty-nine percent of respondents gave this as the reason for innovating. Meanwhile, 61 percent said innovation was important  for maintaining growth while 60 percent said it was necessary to create a better product.



The report further indicates older entrepreneurs looked to improve the client side of the business, while their younger counterparts were focused on creating better products or services.

Key to Innovation

In the survey, business owners identified four keys to innovation. Sixty-six percent of respondents indicated funding was most important, while 64 percent said it was networking. Another 61 percent said partnerships with staff were the key to successful innovation while 40 percent identified mentoring programs as most important.

So how do small business owners continue to innovate? In the report, BMO makes the following suggestions:

  • Join a local Chamber of Commerce and attend monthly events.
  • Seek counsel from local banks to get an overview of potential loan options.
  • Read small business blogs which often highlight local, state and federal funding programs.

Conclusion

In today’s highly competitive and technologically evolving economy, small business owners can’t stop innovating. As the report rightly points out, “Innovation should be a never-ending process.” And getting informed is the best way to do it.

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Why Traditional Employee Feedback Just Won’t Work Anymore

Performance Review Trends: Reviews Are Changing - Why and How to Adapt

Performance reviews are starting to evolve. The time-honored tradition of annually evaluating your employees in terms of productivity, improvement and goal achievement remains a touchstone for millions of businesses, but the way they’re adopting and executing these evaluations is being reformed, thanks to new trends and technologies dictating the new standard.

So how are performance reviews changing, and what should you be doing about it?

Why You Should Care About Performance Review Trends

If your business doesn’t currently offer a standard performance review, or if you feel satisfied with the process you already have, you may wonder why you should care about these developments.

But consider this:

  • Performance reviews have a purpose. According to Emplo, the modern performance review “plays an integral role in the open line of communication between manager and employee, between feedback and silence. It is the chance to offer employees the acknowledgment that they’re looking for, to encourage them to strive for high levels of achievement, and to nip problems in the bud before they grow into thorny roses.”
  • Tech makes things easier and cheaper. Technology makes almost everything easier, faster and less expensive; so why would performance reviews be any different? Incorporating the latest tech can make the process go smoother and cost less time and money.
  • Employees expect modernity. If you don’t adopt the new standards for performance reviews, one of your competitors will. And because employees expect their employers to offer competitive performance reviews and benefits, you may appear inferior because of it.

Rejection of the Traditional Model

According to research by Kansas State University, Eastern Kentucky University and Texas A&M University, pretty much everyone hates to receive negative feedback in the traditional context. Earning a numerical rating in each of several categories at the end of a performance period tends to fill people with resentment and frustration.

On top of that, most supervisors hate filling out the same, tired, formulaic templates for all their employee reviews. They see it as a waste of time, and are eager for a new model that allows them to do the work faster, and in a way that actually appeals to employees.

Project Management Software

Project management software platforms, once relegated to managing and organizing tasks, are now evolving to incorporate more metrics and insights to assist with employee evaluation. For example, Taskworld explains its new feature like this: “Whenever a task is completed, the assigner will have an option to give feedback to its assignees. This ensures that the receiver understands the context of the feedback. It also encourages your team members to give frequent feedback to each other.”



In addition, project management software gives supervisors a transparent, automated tool to evaluate individual employee performance, answering questions like “how many tasks has this person completed?” and “how does this person interact with others?”

Millennial Demands and Oversight

Millennials are also having an effect on how performance reviews are done. As employees, millennials crave feedback more than any other generation. They want their work to be acknowledged, and want to hear how they’re doing, so they can learn, adjust appropriately and continue advancing. This makes them feel more engaged with their work, so if they aren’t able to get it at one company, they may leave for a different opportunity.

Of course, these days, millennials are starting to step into more supervisory and managerial positions. So rather than asking their bosses for more performance reviews, they’re taking their pro-feedback stances and are using them to develop more intricate, engaging reviews for their subordinates.

Real-Time Feedback

Modern technology also affords supervisors ample opportunities to give real-time feedback to their employees. Rather than waiting until the end of the year, or even the end of a project, a quick chat over instant messenger or a concise email thread may be enough to proactively recognize a problem area and suggest a course to correct it. This agile mode of feedback allows for faster changes and more satisfied, informed employees throughout each project.

Is your business ready to keep pace with all these changes? You don’t need to mimic the approach of a different company, but you should at least learn from the new standards and expectations that are starting to develop, and revise your strategy accordingly. Better performance reviews can lead to higher morale, higher efficiency and overall, a better company in which to work.