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
- What do the child's records indicate?
- What are the child's strengths and weaknesses?
- What is my greatest concern about this student?
- Are there any specific home activities I want to suggest?
- To create a cooperative relationship with the parent(s), guardian, or caregiver.
- To foster increased school/home communication.
- To encourage positive parent/child interactions.
- To clarify and agree upon actions to be taken.
- Use a private room that is free from distractions.
- Use chairs of equal size with no furniture between you and the parent(s).
- Sit beside each other rather than directly across from each other.
- Take a pencil and paper plus information on parenting
classes, mental health facilities, and parenting handouts found under "Parent Tips" at
- Greet the parent.
- Comment positively on the child by enthusiastically naming at least one strength.
- 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 _____________."
- "In order to help _________ learn, I need to know as much as possible about him/her. Tell me about _____________."
- Listen and reflect upon the feelings expressed. (Telling a parent about a problem behavior at this point will probably not be effective.)
- 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
Then listen without interruption.
- Refrain from giving direct advice concerning the child. (Suggestions of changes the parent could make need to grow out of a mutual discussion.)
- Be aware of sensitive issues and avoid criticizing and/or embarrassing the parent.
- 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 ____________."
- 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.
- 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?"
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- If considered appropriate, share parenting handouts and/or information on shelters or mental health facilities.
- Involve the parent in a discussion of ways you both will deal with the child's behavior at home and at school.
- Comment on what you will try to do differently emphasizing that to be successful you need to work closely together.
- Then ask the parent what he/she will try to do to help the child at home.
- 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
You may want to write the goals down and share a copy with the parent.
- Ask if the parent has any questions.
- 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.
- Thank the parent for coming and close the conference with an encouraging statement.
- If the problem is beyond your scope of expertise, seek additional professional assistance.