It occurs to me that sometimes we (those of us in public schools) avoid difficult parents. This is absolutely the wrong approach. Difficult parents are tough for lots of reasons, but usually, the primary reason is a frustration with our school through a lack of understanding, their own bad memories from a personal experience, or our lack of good service.
The toughest parents are the parents I should be spending more time with in an effort to eliminate that lack of understanding or memory. They should see us as employees who are here to help them navigate a system that may be foreign to them, or worse, one in which they personally met with little or no success. Tough parents are often difficult because life is tough for them.
When I started in administration at Frontier Middle School, I worked with an incredible school social worker named Dottie Laettner. For many reasons, most of all her passion for families, I learned a lot from her in the year and a half we worked together. There was something Dottie said to me that’s never left me.
Dottie said, “Kim, even bad parents love their kids.”
They may lack the skills, the role models, or the emotional stability to get it right. But they love their kids. Honestly, it seldom bothers me when a parent comes at me in a tough way because I’m always thinking, “she’s just fighting for her kid.” Our parents may not always choose the most appropriate way, but heck, I’m glad to see them advocating for their child. That’s the most important thing they can do, that and loving them, and if we’re getting it right then they don’t have to come in “guns a blazing”. When it is our mistake, we need to own that too. Difficult parents understand that we all make mistakes, what they don’t accept is when we try to avoid it.