Tips for When Parents Don't Understand Boundaries


Parents Just Don't Understand

Let's be honest: parents might have good intentions, but those intentions, more often than not, are manifested in the form of annoying teachers. Thankfully, most parents manage to keep their behavior to a level that teachers can handle. But sometimes there are parents who just can't manage to understand boundaries. You know the ones we mean. Those who send you an email every day. Those who call you at midnight. Those who somehow find your address, show up at your house, and demand to know why their little angel got an A- on the last spelling test. Okay, maybe that last one isn't so common, but you get the idea. If this stuff sounds painfully familiar, here's what you can do.

Teachers must set clear boundaries for parents

Be Clear

Here's the thing: you can't exactly complain about parents crossing boundaries if you haven't clearly communicated very specific boundaries to begin with. Make sure that, at the very beginning of the school year, you set those parental boundaries.

Communicate them in as many ways as possible: verbally, through email, on the printed page - heck, even draw pictures if you have to. Give parents the opportunity to ask questions about your policies at the beginning of the year, making it clear that this is the only chance they will have to do so. And make sure they sign their agreement to the policy.

Be specific about your rules. Instead of saying 'Please don't contact me in the evenings,' say 'Do not contact me in any way after 5 PM.' Instead of saying 'I'd prefer not to communicate with you over social media,' say, 'Do not friend request me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, or Vine.'

It's also helpful if you explain why these policies are so important to you as a teacher. At the top of your back-to-school Parent Communication Policy form, you can include a brief paragraph explaining that you take the following policies very seriously for reasons X, Y, and Z.

Furthermore, make sure that you are clear about just what the consequences will be if parents fail to follow your communication boundaries. Unfortunately, you can't put them in detention, but you can threaten to talk to the school administration. Because the principal's office is a terrifying punishment for everybody, adults included.

A teacher gets an annoying phone call at home

Be Strong

Unfortunately, it's not enough just to set clear boundaries. Some parents will still think that they are magically exempt and act accordingly. Therefore, you have to be just as strict about actually enforcing said boundaries. If a parent calls you at 3 AM, don't pick up the phone. If they question your academic integrity policies, don't engage them in debate. If they ask you to drive their child home from the aquarium field trip... don't do it.

If ever you receive push-back in one of these types of scenarios, you always have your back-to-school Parent Communication Policy form to point the parent to. They did, after all, sign their agreement to your more-than-reasonable boundaries.

Be Cooperative

It's important to make it clear to parents that having strict communication policies does not mean you're unwilling to cooperate with them. If there really were some sort of extenuating personal circumstances that prevented a student from being in class on time, of course you're open to discussing the situation with the parent, just at an appropriate place and time.

And it's not just necessary to be cooperative with the parents. You'll also want to have your school administration approve your communication policies so that you can be sure they will be on your side if a parent insists on breaking your rules repeatedly. Because you can't exactly threaten to send a parent to the principal's office if the principal has no idea what's going on.

That goes to say, if you get to a point where a parent repeatedly crosses your boundaries and does not seem to understand reason, know that you don't have to deal with it in isolation. As many problems as teachers have, you don't have to deal with them all alone. And, if you ask us, this one is as great a candidate as any to ask for help with. Good luck!

A teacher cooperates with a parent during an appropriate time

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