Q: I’m working with these aggressive parents who are just angry all the time. The way they speak and act towards me is getting worse. Is there anything I can do?
A: As with over-involved parents and unsupportive parents, there are probably a lot of factors influencing their behavior. You can’t really control how aggressive parents are going to act – you can only control how you respond. In this situation I recommend keeping them ‘on ICE‘.
Interact with them
Don’t ignore aggressive parents in the hope that they’ll magically disappear from your life. Try to meet with them and find out if their grievance is with you, your work, your organization, their youth or if it’s just other external factors that have nothing to do with you. If it’s within your realm of change, then make your best effort to accommodate reasonable requests by them.
You don’t have to bend to the every whim of aggressive parents. Listen with an open mind to any feedback they provide. Work to keep them focused on the issue at hand – try to avoid having them digress into unproductive griping. Repeat back to them what you’ve heard.
Give clear expectations about what you’re going to do with that information. Will you be talking with your supervisor? Reviewing the program? Taking it to your volunteers for their feedback? Whatever it is, be realistic and honest about what you plan to do.
If you plan to update them at a certain time in the future, make sure you set up a reminder to follow through with this. That will ensure that they don’t have another reason to be angry further down the line because you didn’t do something you said you’d do.
Keep calm and relaxed around aggressive parents. It can be really challenging, but speaking kindly can do a world of good when dealing with angry parents. Don’t be patronizing, but do relax your voice and body language when you’re around them.
Be aware that you might get wound up, so make choices that will improve the situation, particularly if they’re escalating. Take a step back. Ask for some time to process what they’re saying (this will give them time to calm down). Do something physical to use the adrenaline that’s pumping through your body, causing your own heart rate and blood pressure to rise.
Anticipate a better relationship and do what you can to improve the dialogue between you and angry or aggressive parents. Often times we can be our own worst enemy. We think that a person is going to act a certain way or say something we don’t like. This can result in us being defensive from the outset. They interpret this as you being the angry one and respond in kind.
Instead, treat them with respect and professional courtesy every time that you see them. It may take a long time for your relationship to improve (keeping in mind that it may not change at all), but your attitude may at least help you cope with the relationship more effectively.
Many times we excuse a lot of behavior in a youth that we have no tolerance for with adults (I am soooo guilty of this). However, it’s worth remembering (Shae) that sometimes adults haven’t learned the skills they should have as a young person. That may be why you’re now working with their child – they can’t teach what they don’t know.
Be patient and act professionally with aggressive parents. Talk over frustrating conversations and situations with your workplace supervisor or line manager to find solutions that work for you.
Q: How do you deal with angry or aggressive parents? Please let us know in the comments below.
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