How do I build bridges with parents who won’t engage?

2nd December 2016 at 00:00
Make it clear to the parent that you will work together on behaviour issues
Tracey Lawrence, assistant headteacher and specialist leader of education in social, emotional and mental health, answers your questions on behaviour

With enthusiastic parents, developing relationships can be easy. But what about the invisible parent, who shoots off as soon as they’ve picked up their child?

Start with the basic knowledge that the pupil in front of you is their child. They are the expert. For example, if the child is not behaving, it might be that the parent is struggling to cope, or they might not be experiencing such behaviours at home.

In such instances, don’t make the assumption that it can’t be true that the child only acts up in school. Instead, work with the parent, as the expert on their child, towards a solution for behaviour during school time.

Tell them you're a team

Let’s assume that the parent needs support, but is presenting a defensive attitude. Starting that relationship early is vital and informal discussion is good: greetings, active interest in their day, as well as sharing knowledge of their child.

Dare I say it, the parent may be worrying about whether or not they like their child. You’ll be a lifeline if you make the distinction between their child and their child’s behaviour. Separate those two things. They will love their child unconditionally, but it’s normal to not like their behaviours. Make it clear that this is OK. The parent, like you, will be racking their brain for reasons why. Tell them you are a team to support their child and will be their champion at school.

Search for causes and solutions, whether it’s home, school, events in life or even parenting. Other avenues of support include Family Lives, YoungMinds and their GP. But, most of all, make it clear that you’re on this journey together.


Tracey Lawrence is assistant head and specialist leader of education in social, emotional and mental health at Danemill Primary School in Leicester

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