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The Difficult Parent

The Difficult Parent
An Educator's Guide to Handling Aggressive Behavior

June 2004 | 168 pages | Corwin

Specific strategies for working successfully with challenging parents

Parents are a vital source of support for our schools. School personnel interact with parents on a daily basis and fortunately, most of these interactions are pleasant and helpful, keeping students' needs in mind. Instances of parental aggression, however, do occur. Volatile or confrontational parents present many unique challenges for educators who have long overlooked this important issue.

The Difficult Parent digs deeply into the problem of parental aggression, specifying strategies for a broad audience of educators. The guide is organized into three modules:

digs deeply into the problem of parental aggression, specifying strategies for a broad audience of educators. The guide is organized into three modules:
  1. An introductory examination of parental aggression and confrontation
  2. An in-depth explanation of the RAID approach and its mechanics
  3. Step-by-step instructions for facilitating the RAID approach in any academic setting

Comprehensive in scope, the RAID approach targets four steps to working successfully with difficult parents:

  • Recognize the potential for a volatile encounter
  • Assess your ability to deal effectively with the situation
  • Identify your advantages
  • Defuse the parent's aggression during the initial approach and greeting

This effective, proven approach is based on real professionals' mistakes and successes. Specially featured scenarios and anecdotes depict confrontational situations experienced by school personnel, including "from the trenches" interviews with educators who have successfully implemented the RAID approach in their schools. A facilitator's guide is also included for practical implementation of the RAID approach in the academic setting.

About the Author
Part I: Parental Aggression Towards School Personnel
1. A Genuine Concern for School Personnel
Are Confrontational Parents a Pertinent Issue?

How Often Does Parental Aggression Occur?

Do Employees Have to Tolerate Parental Aggression?

Could Parental Aggression Affect Me?

Why Does the Topic of Parental Aggression Seem Obscure?

What Makes Parental Aggression a Unique Issue?

Questions for Discussion

2. The Reactive Nature of Education
The Effects of Reactivity

Is a Proactive Approach Necessary?

Why Does This Feel Funny?

Why Do Parents Become Hostile?

Questions for Discussion

3. Confrontational Parents and Your Colleagues
School Administrators


Guidance Counselors

School Social Workers

School Health Personnel

Office Personnel

School Psychologists

Other School Personnel

Questions for Discussion

Part II: An Approach to Address Parental Aggression
4. The RAID Approach
What Have We Established So Far?

Seven Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the RAID Approach

Just Common Sense

A Schoolwide Approach to Parental Aggression

Brevity and Simplicity

Questions for Discussion

5. RAID Step One: Recognizing the Potential for a Volatile Encounter
To Meet or Not to Meet

When is it Too Risky to Meet With a Parent?

How Do You Say No?

The "Guilts"

Step One in Motion

Step One Summary

Step One Checklist

Questions for Discussion

6. RAID Step Two: Assessing Your Ability to Emotionally Handle the Situation
What Types of Issues Affect Our Emotions and Disposition?

Face Number Four

Early-Warning Colleagues

"I'll be Back"

Step Two Summary

Step Two Checklist

Questions for Discussion

7. RAID Step Three: Identifying Your Advantages
Advantages: What's Available?

Workforce Advantages

Environmental Advantages

Step Three Summary

Step Three Checklist

Questions for Discussion

8. RAID Step Four: Diffusing Anger During the Initial Approach and Greeting
Observing the Parent

Approaching the Parent

Greeting the Parent

Setting Parameters

Step Four Summary

Step Four Checklist

Questions for Discussion

9. Putting the RAID Approach to Work
Case #1: Mrs. Winslow

Case #2: Mrs. Cananski


Questions for Discussion

Part III: Issues, Questions, and Installation
10. The Worst-Case Scenario ... and After
After the Confrontation

I Gotta Unload: The Importance of Debriefing


Questions for Discussion

11. Four Great Questions
What If a Parent Becomes Aggressive and a Student Is in the Vicinity?

What If a Parent Confronts a Staff Member Off Campus?

Which Staff Member Plays the Most Important Role in the RAID Approach?

How Do You Handle a Parent When He or She Returns to the School?

Questions for Discussion

Resource A: Traumatic Stress Reactions Questionnaire
Facilitator's Guide
Who Should Use This Guide?
Who Should Receive a "RAID Approach" In-Service?
When Should The RAID Approach Be Installed?
How This Guide Is Organized
What Materials Are Necessary?
Materials for Facilitators

Materials for Participants

Module One
Task One: Introduce the Issue of Parental Aggression

Task Two: Identification of Previous Staff Interactions With Aggressive Parents

Task Three: Identify the Possible Effects of Parental Aggression on School Personnel

Task Four: Establish the Value of a Multidisciplinary Approach to Parental Aggression

Module Two
Task One: Introduce the RAID Approach

Task Two: Explain Step One: Recognizing the Potential for a Volatile Encounter

Task Three: Explain Step Two: Assessing Your Ability to Emotionally Handle the Situation

Task Four: Explain Step Three: Identifying Your Advantages

Task Five: Explain Step Four: Diffusing Parent Anger During the Initial Approach and Greeting

Module Three
Task One: Solicit Feedback Regarding the RAID Approach

Task Two: Identify Roles and Responsibilities

Task Three: Discuss Worst-Case Scenarios

Task Four: Establish a Debriefing Mechanism

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"Clearly directed toward solutions, rather than perpetuating the ‘blame game.’ I highly recommend it. Nice job!"

Susan M. Nakaba, Associate Principal
Palos Verdes High School, Rolling Hills Estates, CA

"The manner in which information is presented is clear, concise, and easy to follow.  The common sense approach is excellent."

Edward Chevalier, Principal
Blalack Middle School, Carrollton, TX

"This is a very impressive book--a must-read for new administrators and a great book club read for any administrator group."

Larry Birdsell, Principal
Cypress Elementary School, Newbury Park, CA
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