- Remind parents that you are on the same team. You care. You know you do but they don’t. So tell them, show them, talk about it with them. Remind them that you are on the same team. Eliminate an “us” against “them” feeling. Let them know you are working “with” them for their child. Explain to them that your goal is to help their child. It’s true and parents like to hear it.
- Point out the positive. It’s easy to fall into the teacher trap of trying to “fix” everything that is not working correctly. But what about the things that are going great? Make a point of letting parents know what their kids are doing well. If the best thing you can say is “Johnny remembers to hang up his bookbag everyday without a reminder.” then say it. Now that you’re looking for positives; make sure you have a system in place to manage them. I keep a little clipboard with small preprinted “Sunshine Notes” on it. A student list is taped to the back of the clipboard. When I see a child doing something kind, or working especially hard, etc. I jot a quick “Johnny helped a friend during math today!” onto a Sunshine Note, check off Johnny’s name on the list, and drop it into the folder box to go home with Johnny. It only takes a second and I can use my checklist to make sure I don’t inadvertently overlook someone. (I will post my Sunshine Notes as a freebie soon).
- Ask what you can do for their child…..and then follow up! You can do this in conferences, notes or conversations in the car rider line. I have enjoyed using a “Wish Box” I saw on Pinterest a few years ago. At open house, I set out an empty container with the word “Wishes” on it and asked parents to write what they wished for their child for this year and drop it into the Wish Box. One parent said “I wish for Susie to be loved.” so I made a point of writing in her folder occasionally how I loved the way she played, laughed, twirled her hair when she was reading…… Of course, I cared about little Susie, but I needed to make sure her parents knew that I did. Another parent wrote “I wish for Sally to learn to read.” so I made sure to send a little note every time Sally went up a level in guided reading. It was something I was doing anyway, it kept the parents encouraged and it only took a moment to write a note or send an email.
- Make your newsletter a bragging post and say THANK YOU. Whether your newsletter is a full page of detailed information or like mine, a half page full of bullet points and quick notes, you can use it as a way to make parents feel valued. I always put a thank you in the notes/reminders section of my newsletter. “Thanks to Johnny’s mom for sending cupcakes for the Valentine’s party.” “Thanks to Susie’s mom for sending us some Kleenex for our classroom.” Not only do Johnny and Susie’s moms feel valued for their contribution but a bonus is that other moms will often jump on the bandwagon and the Kleenex and germ-x will flow into your room. Win-win for everyone.
- Communicate often and be sincere. The more parents hear from you, the more vested they become in what’s going on in your classroom. I’m not talking about bombarding them with typed and copied notes in the folders. I’m talking about sincere communication and it doesn’t have to be too time consuming. Remember you can: email, text, write a note in a folder/agenda, call, catch them in the car rider line, or invite them in for a conference. Do what you are comfortable with but do it often. Little things can mean a lot. If you have already shown a parent that you care about their child, you like their child, you have noticed positive things about their child and you appreciate them as parents; then they will be more receptive if the need arises to have a difficult talk with them about their child’s behavior or learning. Together you will be able to work with them to find a resolution to the problem because you have already created the feeling that you are a team working together for their child.