How to Deal with Difficult Parents

By Kerri Liljegren September 30, 2013

Now that we are back into the swing of things and the school year gets underway, we thought we would touch on a topic all teachers and therapists have to handle: dealing with difficult parents. This is a skill which will take time to develop and years to master, but in the meantime we have some quick tips that anyone can use when handling a hairy situation.

I recently worked with a mother who felt her child should not be discharged from speech-language therapy at his re-evaluation. The child had been picked up in elementary school for reading comprehension and written expression and was now excelling in regular education classes in middle school. She brought in an outside Speech therapist who argued with myself and the team (scary!). The case is now going to mediation.

After that case, I took at step back and examined both what I did well and what I could have done better. Though in the moment it can be really stressful, a little anticipation and preparation can make the whole process a lot smoother.  I’ve put together a short list of some key concepts to keep in mind during a difficult situation.


  • Preparation:  Go to the meeting prepared with your facts and data to back up your statements. Preparation is key to feeling confident and being able to answer questions quickly and accurately.
  • Anticipation:  Try to think of questions or points that parents will bring to the table and prepare your response ahead of time. Just like getting ready for a speech, practice ahead of time will help you make your points clearly.
  • Teamwork: Always invite back-up (administration, classroom teachers, or other specialists). Even if you are not attending a team meeting it can be beneficial to have other members of the team present. They can support your comments because they also work with the student and know how he or she presents in school. A more holistic approach can only benefit the student as well.
  • Patience:  Temper your reaction to antagonistic comments—remember it’s a conversation, not a fight. Remaining professional may be challenging but it is essential to presenting your side and will aid in the parent’s reception of your view.
  • Empathy:  Acknowledge the parents’ point of view while presenting your own. Think about how they must feel and how emotionally involved they are. Remember, most parents want the same thing as you: what’s best for the child.


Let us know any stressful situations you’ve encountered and how you dealt with them! Sign up for our mailing list here to stay updated with our latest therapy tips, app announcements, and blog posts.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Pinterest, and like us on Facebook!


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