How to Deal With Students' Parents in Denial About a Behavior Problem

by Jeremy Cato
Some parents don't want to accept that their children are misbehaving.

Some parents don't want to accept that their children are misbehaving.

Students, for a variety of reasons, may develop behavior problems in school. These problems may include lack of participation in class activities, disruptive outbursts and hostility towards teachers and administrators. It is important that parents assist teachers by helping their children when these problems arise. However, some parents refuse to believe that their child is behaving badly. If you are an educator, a counselor or just a concerned friend, there is a way to deal with parents in denial.

Invite the parents to meet with you without the child in question being present. Sometimes, when the parents and child are in the same room and participating in the discussion, the parents may feel more of a need to defend the child. Also, the child may be defensive and interject in a disruptive and unproductive way. It is best to talk to the parents alone in a calm environment.

Thoroughly explain the events that have occurred with child. Avoid subjective assessments of the child's behavior at first. Simply tell the parents exactly what the student has done and how the student has behaved as your have observed.

Have tangible evidence ready. The parents may be in denial simply because they have not observed the bad behavior themselves and have not seen any evidence of it. The child may not misbehave at home (or the parents may simply ignore the child's bad behavior) and they may feel that it is your word against the child's. Write down every instance of the child's bad behavior and have a list ready to show to the parents. Have copies of disciplinary write-ups and poor test scores available as well. You may even want to have video evidence, but only if you are legally allowed to videotape students.

Listen to the parents. Allow them several uninterrupted minutes to give you information that you may not be aware of that could explain the student's behavior. Take notes, if necessary, from the information that they give you.

Ask the parents very specific questions about the student and home life. Ask them if a close relative has recently died, if a parent has lost a job, if the child has been diagnosed with a learning disability and other slightly probing questions.

Give avenues for solutions. Thoroughly explain to the parents what you think needs to be done and what they can do to help. Give them several options and allow them to respond to and evaluate each one. Make sure that the parents are in agreement with you on what should be done.

Follow-up with the parents and observe the child's behavior after the initial meeting. Call the parents if the child continues to misbehave and, if necessary, have a second meeting with the child present.


  • Only talk to the parent or parents when they are calm and willing to talk in a civil manner.
  • Be empathetic. the parents may be experiencing stresses of their own that are adding to the strain of dealing with their child. However, don't simply agree with everything they say. Be willing to make recommendations without being critical.


  • "Challenging Behavior in Young Children: Understanding, Preventing and Responding Effectively (3rd Edition)"; Barbara Kaiser and Judy Sklar Rasminsky; 2011
  • "Dealing with the Behavioral and Psychological Problems of Students: A Contemporary Update: New Directions for Student Services (J-B SS Single Issue Student Services)"; John H. Dunkle; 2010
  • "How to Reach and Teach Children with Challenging Behavior (K-8): Practical, Ready-to-Use Interventions That Work (J-B Ed: Reach and Teach)"; Kaye Otten and Jodie Tuttle; 2010

About the Author

Jeremy Cato is a writer from Atlanta who graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors and an English degree from Morehouse College. An avid artist and hobbyist, he began professionally writing in 2011, specializing in crafts-related articles for various websites.

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