Dealing With Difficult Parents

Take these steps to keep your cool at school.

Posted Jul 31, 2019

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Many of us have experienced difficult parents in school or in the carpool line. And, if we're being truly honest, we've likely been that difficult person at some point or another.

This article explores pushy and braggart parents, and provides tips and tricks on how to best deal with them while maintaining our cool.

The Pushy Parent

A pushy parent is one who imposes her ideas on you, even when you don’t ask for them. She appears oblivious to any nonverbal gestures you make, and may even follow you to your car to continue her spiel on why you should support her latest project.

Here’s how to deal with a pushy parent:

1. Acknowledge her and share that you have just a few minutes to chat.

Look the parent in the eye and make sure that she hears what you are saying. Be kind and firm yet polite. 

“Hi, Joan (smile). I’m happy to hear more about this project. But I only have a few minutes to chat right now.”

2. After a few minutes, look at your watch or phone, and share that you have to go.

Thank the pushy parent for sharing the information. By confirming that you’ve heard her message, she can check you off the list, and you won’t be harassed by a phone call later that afternoon or evening.

“Thanks for letting me know about [x]. I’ll definitely reach out with any questions!”

3. Turn to leave. If she’s followed you to your car, then unlock the door and get in. Say goodbye with a smile.

The physical act of leaving stops the flow of communication. It also alerts an oblivious speaker that you are done and that you’ve checked out.

“See you in school, tomorrow, Joan. Thanks so much, again, for sharing this with me.”

Be courteous while standing your ground with a pushy parent. Remember that we can be polite and still get on with the rest of our day without being rude.

The Braggart Parent

A braggart parent is one who incessantly shares details about how smart and advanced his child is in every academic subject and extracurricular activity. He offers this information without being asked and does not stop sharing, despite your apparent indifference.

Here’s how to deal with a braggart parent:

1. Stop him before he starts his monologue by asking a question about a different yet related topic.

Once you note the direction of the conversation, quickly change subjects. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to make the switch. For instance, if a parent is bragging about his daughter’s reading ability, change topics to discuss the teacher or the current book that the class is reading.

“So, what do you think about the new teacher, anyway?” or “Wasn’t that an interesting book choice? I wonder why they changed the curriculum this year….”

2. If he doesn’t get the hint, smile, then turn to talk to someone else or walk away.

Braggart parents feed on your approval. If you continue to nod and show interest, then the braggart parent will never get the hint. Stay strong without being rude.

“That’s fantastic news about Johnny. Thanks for sharing that with me.”

Food for thought: Some parents want to be polite so they endure endless, painful conversations about topics that either irritate them or are of no interest to them. If you are unable to change direction, simply turn your body to face someone else or walk away from the individual. The key is to do so gracefully, without insulting the bragger. A sincere smile helps you portray a direct message with class.

Copyright© 2019 Amy Cooper Hakim