Guidelines for Conferences Concerning Angry Children

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

An angry child is a hurting child who needs help. A parent conference is a first step in understanding what is best for the child. Provide sufficient time to establish a respectful relationship with the parent and to foster open communication.

Questions To Be Answered Prior To Conference

  1. What do the child's records indicate?
  2. What are the child's strengths and weaknesses?
  3. What is my greatest concern about this student?
  4. Are there any specific home activities I want to suggest?


  1. To create a cooperative relationship with the parent(s), guardian, or caregiver.
  2. To foster increased school/home communication.
  3. To encourage positive parent/child interactions.
  4. To clarify and agree upon actions to be taken.


  1. Use a private room that is free from distractions.
  2. Use chairs of equal size with no furniture between you and the parent(s).
  3. Sit beside each other rather than directly across from each other.
  4. Take a pencil and paper plus information on parenting classes, mental health facilities, and parenting handouts found under "Parent Tips" at


  1. Greet the parent.

  2. Comment positively on the child by enthusiastically naming at least one strength.

  3. Find out what the parent is thinking and feeling about this/her child. You might ask,
    • "In order to help _________ learn, I need to know as much as possible about him/her. Tell me about _____________."

  4. Listen and reflect upon the feelings expressed. (Telling a parent about a problem behavior at this point will probably not be effective.)

  5. If the parent does not comment, you might ask about the child's activities at home. For example, you could say one or more of the following:
    • "Tell me about a typical day."
    • "What usually happens when ___________ gets up?"
    • "What does ____________ usually do when he/she gets home from school?"
    • "What does _____________ enjoy doing?"
    • "What does _____________ enjoy doing with other family members?"
    • "What do you and __________ enjoy doing together?"
      Then listen without interruption.

  6. Refrain from giving direct advice concerning the child. (Suggestions of changes the parent could make need to grow out of a mutual discussion.)

  7. Be aware of sensitive issues and avoid criticizing and/or embarrassing the parent.

  8. Remember that arguing with a parent is counterproductive and decreases cooperation. If the parent blames you for the child's misbehavior, DO NOT become defensive. Instead pause and say, "M.___________, we both want what is best for ____________."

  9. If the parent states that he/she will try to engage in a new, positive behavior, reinforce it.
    • For example, if he/she says, "Maybe I need to spend more time with him/her." Or "Maybe we could read more together." You might say, "That's an excellent idea. Reading to a child or listening to a child read can greatly enhance the child's academic as well as his/her emotional development. What time would work best for you?"
      Try to help the parent be specific. Then reiterate and continue to reinforce ANY positive idea.

  10. NOW is the time to express your concerns about the child.
    • You may want to begin by saying, "We have the same goal. We care about __________ and want him/her to succeed in school and in life."
    • Then be specific about concerns; for example, "Although we have been working on getting along with each other, ___________ often pushes, hits or kicks other children for no apparent reason. I was wondering what concerns you have?"
    • Then listen with empathy, trying to sort out reasons for the child's behavior. If the parent says, "None, he/she is perfect at home." Say, "M.___________, I care about ____________. I need your help." Then wait.
    • If no response, say, "Have you noticed ANYTHING that could help explain his/her behavior?" Wait again.

  11. At this point the parent will most likely see you as a person who is concerned about his/her child. You can bring up issues such as television viewing or any other suspicions you consider a possible contributor to the violent behavior.
    • Say something like, " ________ seems to talk a lot about TV characters. I was wondering if television viewing could be influencing his/her behavior." Then listen and reinforce positive actions.

  12. If considered appropriate, share parenting handouts and/or information on shelters or mental health facilities.

  13. Involve the parent in a discussion of ways you both will deal with the child's behavior at home and at school.

  14. Comment on what you will try to do differently emphasizing that to be successful you need to work closely together.

  15. Then ask the parent what he/she will try to do to help the child at home.

  16. Review the things that each of you agreed to do. For example:
    • Teacher: "I will give more attention to ___________ when he/she is behaving appropriately, commenting specifically on the approved behavior. I will spend time teaching him/her to release his anger in appropriate ways like putting it into words, drawing, sitting alone, and gaining control of him/herself by breathing deeply or by counting slowly."
    • Parent: "I will read a book with ___________ each night. I will take the television out of ______________'s room."
      You may want to write the goals down and share a copy with the parent.

  17. Ask if the parent has any questions.

  18. Discuss times when each is most available to confer on the child's progress. Decide on a method to maintain contact such as notes, phone calls, or another conference. Decide when and how you will communicate again.

  19. Thank the parent for coming and close the conference with an encouraging statement.

  20. If the problem is beyond your scope of expertise, seek additional professional assistance.

Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website []. 5/01
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