Ask a Teacher: Dealing with Hover Parents
Q: How do you deal with hover parents who get angry at you or complain about your teaching methods? Do you ever treat the child of that parent differently afterwards, whether you mean to or not?
A: A common question I get from my non-teacher friends is “How do I deal with teenagers all day?” My answer is that the teens are fine. They’re supposed to act like large children. They’re not supposed to handle certain situations well because they generally don’t have the life experiences to guide them through the variety of turd scenarios that adults face.
It’s the adults who really wear on me. They’re supposed to understand that this “school” is about the process, not just the results. Hell, they’ve gone through it already!
Now I’m not a parent, so I can’t truthfully speak about the emotional highs and lows that come with raising people and making sure that they’re safe, healthy and capable to deal with life’s always-changing scenarios. I’m sure that the stress of making sure your child is not in jail, pregnant, or on the pole can grind on your psyche.
But in my experience, parents make the assumption that my goal is to ensure that their child comes out of school a perfect genius. This couldn’t be further from the truth. My job is to challenge their children intellectually and (sometimes) emotionally so they can deal with an imperfect world and the imperfections in themselves and others.
I’ll sometimes get an angry call or email demanding why their kid didn’t meet the impossible perfect standard. I’ve received calls at 1 AM demanding that I go over a student’s essay because a “B” isn’t acceptable in their household. I’ve had parents drive up to the school and demand a conference during class so I could raise their kid’s failing grade before they left. So apparently, accepting imperfection is not acceptable but whining until you get your way is.
So how do I deal with hover parents? First, I launch a pre-emptive strike against them in August. They receive a letter, the class syllabus, my office number and my office hours. I make sure that I’m the one who sets the boundaries. Second, whenever I have a student-parent-teacher meeting, I try my best to ignore the parent. Maybe it’s harsh, but I don’t come to meetings to aid the parents’ academic or emotional needs. I don’t stay up late creating lessons, grading papers and planning units for parents. I’m there for the students and I try to (respectfully) make it clear that no one in the room matters to me as much as the kid.
And in general, I never hold a crazy parent against their kids. Maybe it’s because my mom is a crazy hover parent, but I try to remember that teens are currently trying to establish their individual identity and not rely on their parents for everything. In fact, I try to use it as a positive, like “I know you don’t want to track your assignments, but if you want to be trusted by your parents and other adults, you have to prove to us that you can handle this on your own.” I’m sure that I’ve made mistakes in handling a parent or their student, but I’m also sure that I know how to do my job better than a parent does—just like they know how to do their parenting duties better than me.
 Turd scenarios include taxes, career strains, marriage/relationship problems, taxes, multiple deaths, physical deterioration, mental deterioration, your parents’ physical/mental deterioration, taxes and Ke$ha. And yes, I said taxes thrice because you’ll be taxed a minimum of three times per paycheck.
 Which leads to a mini lesson for any future teachers: Never give you cell phone to parents. They will stalk you like an angry ex. I’ve known teachers to change cell numbers because parents were harassing them.
 She still calls me once a week to see if I did my grocery shopping. Otherwise, she offers to overnight me toilet paper and paper towels…from Arizona.
How involved are your parents with your school and teachers?
Mr. Jones is a high school teacher in Wisconsin. Surprisingly, he is married, and is the doting father to a lovely 4-year-old golden retriever.
Got a question for an English, science, math, writing, special ed, sociology, or PE teacher, or a specific question for Mr. Jones? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Related post: The Misunderstood Introvert