Do you know a helicopter parent? You know, the one who is really, really involved in every aspect of her child’s life. The one who seems to manage every class project and every social situation for her child. The one who calls, emails and shows up in the classroom a lot more than necessary. The one who seems to be figuratively–and quite possibly literally–hovering over her child and over everyone who comes in contact with her child.
I think most teachers are familiar with this parenting style, and while we would certainly take hyper-involvement over lack-of-involvement any day, helicopter parents can be a challenge for teachers.
If you know a parent who is hovering a bit too close for comfort, take a deep breath and try these six steps for soothing high-strung parents:
- Communicate with confidence. Clearly communicate with parents. When they understand your teaching style and the classroom routine, they will be less likely to send lots of emails asking for clarification.
- Make it clear early and often that you really know and appreciate their child. If you reassure parents that you understand the particular needs and strengths of their child, they will be more likely to trust that you have their child’s best interests in mind.
- Listen and make parents feel heard as early as you can in the year. As their child’s first teacher, all parents have a lot of helpful insight to share about their child, and they want to share it. Welcome parent input so they can relax, knowing that you understand their hopes and concerns for their child.
- Set clear boundaries. Clearly communicate the ways and times you would like to be contacted. Explain when and how you would like parents to help in the classroom. Talk about the role you’d like parents to play in helping kids with homework and in helping them navigate social situations.
- Help parents see and value their child’s growing independence. Make a point to celebrate the times when the child solves a problem independently, advocates for himself, or tackles a big learning challenge. Sometimes it’s hard as a parent to recognize that your “baby” is learning to handle things on his own, so it helps when you can point out these important steps toward independence with concrete examples from the classroom.
- Make it your mission to educate parents and students about the growth mindset. Provide resources throughout the year so parents can learn right alongside their children that it’s actually good to stumble as we grow. Parents hover because they want to protect their children from making mistakes or getting hurt, so helping them appreciate the value of mistakes is critical. After all, one of the very best ways we can protect our kids is to help them learn to fail, and then get back up and try again.
As a parent who has admittedly slipped into helicopter mode a time or two myself, I know it can be super hard to avoid hovering, and sometimes there is a good reason to hover. We obviously can’t tell parents how to parent, but we can share and model research-based strategies for helping students become confident and independent, and we can do our best to keep the lines of communication open so we can work as a team to help kids succeed.