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How to Respond to an Upset Parent

by Erica Loop

As a parent, you might have to respond to an upset parent at some point during your little one's childhood. Whether your child is acting up while playing with another kid, arguing with her former best friend or you have done something such as put a limit on the number of other parents who can help out at a class party, responding to an unhappy or angry parent doesn't need to turn into a spat. Employ a few tips and tricks that teachers regularly use to make handling the upset parent less of a hassle.

Understand the reason for the other parent's anger or unhappiness. Is it your child that she is upset with or is it you? The possibility also exists that it is neither. The parent might have misunderstood something or heard gossip from another parent that isn't true. Avoid second-hand accounts of what the root of the problem is and ask the parent herself.

Set up a meeting. This is a tactic that teachers use during a parent-teacher conference to discuss a problem or unresolved issue. If you don't feel comfortable meeting face-to-face, offer to call the parent to discuss the problem.

Make a list -- either mental or on paper -- of what you want your parent-parent meeting to accomplish. Do you want to apologize for something that you or your child has done? Do you want to better understand what the problem is? Or, do you want to explain your side of the story? Set concrete objectives for the outcome of the meeting.

Ask the upset parent to explain her side of the issue. This can give you a big picture of what is -- or what she thinks is -- going on.

Stay positive. Instead of making matters worse by pointing fingers or throwing accusations, focus on resolving the issue. For example, if the parent is upset because your child didn't invite her child to a birthday party, explain that your little one likes her child, but was only allowed to invite three friends. If the problem is between your child and her's, come up with ways to help the two kids reconcile such as setting up play time or mediating a conversation. Ask what you can do to smooth the problem over.

Listen actively to what the other parent is saying. Although you might get upset too, you need to hear what she has to say for herself. This can help you get a better grip on the problem.

Involve your child when necessary. If your child truly did something she needs to apologize for -- such as calling the other child a hurtful name -- ask her to apologize. If you were the one who did something to upset the parent, apologize to the other adult.

Follow up with a second conversation if it is needed. Check in with the upset parent to see whether she feels that a positive resolution was reached. If not, ask what else you can do to come up with a solution.

Tip

  • Keep the kids out of the initial conversation. While you might need to bring the children in later -- to apologize or work things out with each other -- don't put them on the spot while you are trying to assess the problem. Ask your child her side of the story in private, and have the other parent do the same with her child.

Warnings

  • Avoid aggressive parents. If the upset parent seems overly aggressive -- either verbally or physically -- don't engage them in an argument. Simply walk away and wait until they calm down.
  • Never initiate a conversation with another parent while you are upset. If both of you enter into a heated discussion, chances are that nothing positive will happen. Wait until you calm down before confronting the parent.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images