Apr 15, 2018
Interacting with difficult parents can not only be tiring, but can interfere with producing the best student outcomes. Understanding where your student’s parents are coming from, having confidence in your abilities, and keeping your goals in sight will help you manage expectations with helicopter parents and allow you to focus on the job that needs to be done.
As admission processes from kindergarten to college become more competitive, parents may feel the pressure to ensure their student gets accepted into the best school possible. Multiple extracurricular activities, high school internships, and high academic performance are all steps students may need to take to compete. Hiring a tutor can be a perfect supplement for a student to ensure that they understand their class material, are prepared for standardized testing, and have someone to coach them along the way.
While employing a tutor is a great decision, parents may not always be the easiest to work with. Whether overbearing with unrealistic goals or just not getting the full picture, tutors should work with parents to create a happy medium of communication that will best benefit the student, and ensure the best educational outcome.
Address the Problem Before It Occurs
Repeat after me: Communication is key!
A lack of communication up front is a sure-fire way to face problems down the road. Before your first session, tutors should speak with the student and their parents to understand what their ] goals are. If a parent expects their child to ace every test and get a perfect score on their SAT, while the student wants reach a certain GPA and get admitted into at least one of their top choice colleges, tutors need to address the differences in those targets as well as evaluate what is realistic based on current performance and the amount of time they have to work together. Tutors should help students and parents come up with SMART goals, which will give everyone involved an understanding of the achievements that can be made.
Having an understanding of goals will also create a baseline for measuring progress down the line. If parents feel that their child isn’t performing as well as they believe they should, you can address the list you made together earlier and reevaluate if any changes can be made. Whether that means a change in teaching style, length or amount of tutoring sessions, or modifying the goals altogether, you will be able to avoid any confusion as to the type of progress that your student should make.
Miscommunication Or Missed Communication
Sometimes even working on open communication and setting goals isn’t enough. Parents may not always fully understand what their child needs in terms of tutoring, which may make it difficult for them to understand why their child isn’t progressing as quickly as they would like. First and foremost, remember that although their concern may feel unjustified to you it often comes from a place of well meaning. Inform the parents that you understand where they’re coming from, and that you want nothing more than for your student to be successful.
Keep calm and invite them to see the successes that your student is making. Having your student’s parents sit in on a tutoring session will allow them to witness their child in action and see the effort put into each lesson. Update them on any strides made through regular progress reports – by highlighting effort, progress, and understanding, parents will have an opportunity to take notice of their child’s advances as you continue to tutor them.
Finally, be confident in your abilities. Whether the parents are upset with you or your student, remember that you are both doing the best you can. Let the parents know that you are devoted to their child’s success and willing to try different approaches, spend more time with your student, and connect with other key members in your student’s life in order to help them succeed.
When You Can’t Meet Eye to Eye
If you agree that your student isn’t progressing as expected, speak with your student privately to try and diagnose the issue. If they feel pressure from their parents to make certain grades, it’s possible that they’re focused only on the score rather than fully understanding concepts. If a student feels that they cannot make a mistake due to their parent’s expectations, they may feel especially anxious, inhibiting their success. By having insight into how your student is feeling and why, you may be able to successfully express these concerns to their parents.
However, sometimes speaking to parents about your concerns may just not be enough. If high-pressure parents continuously interfere with your ability to help your student reach their goals and no amount of communication can seem to resolve the issue, it might be wise to consider cutting ties. While you may want what is best for your student, you must be realistic about whether the sessions are worth you and your student’s time and effort.
While high-pressure parents can certainly add stress to both you and your student, try to understand where they’re coming from - they only want the best for their child, just like you. Remind parents that their child is bright and capable, and that you’re doing your best to help them succeed. Making sure you start with a clear understanding of everyone’s goals, sending progress reports throughout the engagement, and having open and honest conversations with your student about how they’re feeling will keep everyone aligned on what is needed to achieve the best outcomes.