8 Do’s and Don’ts Choice Theory Taught Me About Working with Parents
It can be stressful working with parents, especially parents that are difficult in some way, but keeping the following points in mind will go a long way toward minimizing the stress.
Do affirm the parent’s love for their child and your mutual desire for the child to thrive.
This is an area in which teacher and parent can always agree; sometimes it can feel like it’s the only area of agreement.
Do describe matter-of-factly the child’s behavior or performance.
You don’t need to pile on, but you shouldn’t hold back from sharing essential details either. The key lies in using a matter-of-fact tone, infused with ample amounts of optimism.
Do express confidence in the child’s ability to create and keep an improvement plan.
Pretty much everything hinges on the child’s desire and ability to meet reachable goals, whether behaviorally or academically. Parents sometimes need to be reminded that their child is capable of taking steps toward being responsible.
Do involve the student in conferences when appropriate.
This is an interesting, in that, the more choice theory becomes a part of a classroom, the more students handle their own problem-solving conferences. The statement could just as easily be turned around to say, “Do involve parents in conferences when appropriate.”
Do teach parents how to support their child while not rescuing him from appropriate consequences.
It is very common, especially (ironically) by by those who punish, for parents to “rescue” their child from dealing with natural consequences or resolving a problem he/she created. Punishment is about applying punitive pain to an already bad situation, and something in parents, even within this who think they need to apply it, that wants to protect their children from such pain, especially when they see an “outsider” doing it. It often comes as a relief to parents that we are not talking about adding arbitrary pain, but instead want to simply help students learn to address problems they have caused.
Don’t enter a conference with a parent with the intention of having to prove the “guilt” of their child.
Seeking to build a case against a student is a defensive strategy and comes out of our fear. It almost guarantees a conference with a parent will not go well. As you present your “case” the parent becomes defensive and stakes out a zone of protection for their child. Better to stay away from building cases.
Don’t look to parents to solve their child’s behavior problems at school.
It comes as such a relief to parents when a teacher informs them that problems or challenges at school can be handled at school. In traditional school settings, parents are used as part of the discipline plan. (i.e. – if you get three checks on the board I will have to call your parents), as a part of the threat that you better shape up. Not so in a choice theory school. Parents are kept informed, but are encouraged to let their child work through the improvement process.
Don’t allow the student to create a school vs parent conflict.
If the student is not planning and implementing his own behavior plan, then he is learning to play his teacher against his parents, or vice versa. When a teacher “bypasses’ the student to involve his parents in making their child behave, a cat and mouse strategy game is created where the student sits back and watches his teacher and his parents go at it. Better to work with the student directly.
Most parents are a pleasure to work with and appreciate choice theory tips that will help them work with their own children more effectively. Some parents are at their wits end when it comes to managing their child’s behavior at home and are desperate for insights into how to do it better. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals and parenting can be what feels like a lonely, intense struggle at times. Viewing choice theory as an instruction manual for teachers and parents is probably a pretty good way to look at it.
The book, Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Teachers, provides many insights into how teachers and parents can manage students in a way that improves relationships and behavior. You can easily access the book through Amazon at –
Or you can get a signed copy of Soul Shapers by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.