Episode 18: How To Have A Successful Meeting With A Difficult Parent

Episode 18 Show Notes 


How To Have A Successful Meeting With An Upset Parent


Setting up the meeting

  • Don't allow the "ambush meeting"
  • Time of day
  • Location (your office)
  • Length max 30 minutes
  • Scheduled time for yourself after 


Preparing for the meeting

  • Gather information (talk to teacher, get copy of discipline referral)
  • Seating logistics (face the clock)  not behind desk if possible 
  • Be prepared for snowplow and helicopter
  • Don’t argue with difficult people. You will NOT win. They are VERY GOOD at arguing.


Mindset Shift

  • Optimism (this is going to be a good meeting)
  • Remember the Child in the Chair (Heidi Hayes Jacobs)
  • If you don’t have the confidence reach for the courage 
  • Jedi mind tricks (Think about specific things that will happen after the meeting)
  • Put on your "armor".  Let words bounce off of you
  • Reduce Anxiety (Mindfulness practice)



    • Big smile, firm handshake
    • Very brief small talk
    • Let them go first if they called the meeting (17 minutes, record)


  • Don't interrupt


    • Calm, confident, professional
    • Jot notes


  • Active listening body language


  • NOT listening with the intent to respond 
  • Don't take it personally, speaking from fear and anxiety



  • Know when to cut it off (verbally abusive)
  • Stand up open door
  • Talk over parent on phone, hanging up and happy to reschedule 
  • Give your board chair a heads up



  • You respond
  • First of all…
  • Validate their concerns (90% of the time parents want to be heard and validated)
  • Find things you can agree with 
  • Empathy: “I am so sorry that happened”
  • Emphasize “WE”
  • Focus on behaviors, not opinions
  • Stick to facts (Only what is observable)
  • Check for understanding (“So, what I am hearing you say is….”
  • Don't be defensive (Don’t over-explain)
  • Regulate your mood (What’s going on on the inside is not going to show)
  • Apologize (If you or the school messed up, own it, apologize and say that we will make it better)
  • Don't make promises you can't keep
  • Summary: Discuss the past without dwelling on it. Focus forward with 1-2 clear and actionable steps



  • Whenever possible, offer more than one solution so that the parent has some agency
  • Next steps
  • Wrapping it up (words “Well, I want to be respectful of everyone’s time” body language “close your notebook, put down your pen, etc.)
  • Your administrative assistant's role


Post meeting

  • Schedule next steps (remember that you scheduled post meeting time for yourself)
  • Trust is built by keeping your promises 
  • Summary email to parent
  • Follow up with all affected employees


Call to Action

  • Let the parent go first and never interrupt


CLICK HERE to Listen to Episode 2: "The Top 5 Ways To Build Effective Relationships With Difficult Parents". Two parts of this episode will be especially helpful: the part about "Why So Emotional?" and the part about "The Wall Of Mutual Distrust".


If you implement any of these strategies at your school, I would love to hear from you! Send me a quick note at [email protected] and tell me about it. I can answer your questions and I’m also good at giving pep talks when you get stuck!

CLICK HERE for a bunch of free resources, including Plug & Play PD's (video webinars with guided notes) for you to use with your teachers, Top Lists of Leadership Books, Productivity Books, TED Talks and much more!

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Music by Twisterium from Pixabay