Dealing With Difficult Parents In Special Education


Special education implies personalized care and services. Educators often strive to give better lessons to little ones and communicate updates with parents. But with a few difficult caretakers, it may get challenging to deal with. 

Here, a need for a distinct set of strategies and tips are needed for efficient parent-teacher collaboration. This post will provide the needed knowledge in solidly presenting the scenario and also providing tips to deal with. 

Attributes of a difficult parent/parenting style 

Having support and empathy from the parents or caretakers can help students with special needs, and teachers as well. Every parent is different and so is their parenting style. Difficult parents are sometimes challenging to deal with. But what attributes of parents can make it difficult for the instructors to deal with them? Here are a few of these attributes:

  • Parents with the tendency to either over indulge or neglect the needs of their child can prove to be difficult during the attempt to develop a balanced path of nurturing for the child.
  • Seeking validation for the tasks that are basic to the duties of a parent and creating an environment of hostility if unacknowledged. 
  • Parents with a tendency to appear fully equipped and well informed, eventually lacking in judgment and blame the consequences on the educator and the school.
  • Parents who have the tendency to reflect their negative experiences or their unfulfilled expectations from the child.
  • Parents who are unable to understand the impact of disability on various aspects of life associate the negative outcomes with rather naive and inconsequential features to their child.
  • Parents coming from families with conditions like poverty, lawsuits, or multiple individuals with disabilities at home lead to saturation of their capacity to understand and deal with their special needs child and their life goals. 
  • It can be difficult for an educator to deal with a situation when the biological parents are not the primary caretakers, and the responsibility has been taken up by foster parents, non-custodial parents, or elder siblings with less to almost no time to spare for the child.

Strategies to deal with difficult parents 

Parenting a child with special needs can feel like being thirsty, only to be surrounded by salty water. But dealing with parents of a special needs child needs skills and a strong drive to make sure that the efforts being put to ensure a quality of life for the child are not hampered. 

Listed below are a few strategies and tips that can help an educator deal with difficult parents and ensure a smooth transition of the partnership. 

1. Open Communication 

Open Communication

An educator should make sure that the parents have an open line of communication with the teacher to establish a leveled ground where the parents don’t feel unheard, unacknowledged, or ignored. Fortunately, Various apps are available that can facilitate smooth communication between teachers and parents. Moreover, open communication also makes sure that parents know where their kid is lagging since most of the time the child is spent in school. Hence, open communication makes sure parents are well in the loop of the same. 

2. Research, Reflect and React (RRR strategy)

This strategy would involve the teacher contacting the previous teachers or educators and gaining insights into previous interactions with the particular parent. This would involve organizing meetings or allowing the parent to clarify and put forth their misconceptions before reacting to a perception that could eventually make the situation even more challenging. Unaware of the challenges a parent might be facing, this shall allow the teacher to identify the actual gap in the child’s transition. 

3. Cooperate 


Being cooperative with parents can be extremely rewarding. Parenting can be tiring and confusing, and feeling that they are heard and considered can help them become receptive to the suggested interventions for their special needs child. Thus, It would be wise to meet parents at their convenience, even if that requires meeting outside of the classroom. Nonetheless, accommodating unannounced requests to meet can be politely discouraged and dealt with by recruiting shadow teachers who can briefly meet the parent and tend to their concerns. This way cooperation is executed without having to overlap aspects of the parent’s personal life with the educator’s professional life. 

4. Set Boundaries and Expectations 

Setting boundaries and expectations can be a very effective strategy to deal with difficult parents. Being difficult can lead a parent to push the educator into over indulgence, feeling guilty, overstepping in the strategies used as an educator, etc. Nevertheless, being clear and specific about intolerable behaviors can be liberating. Making sure that your personal life and professional life don’t spill over each other and don’t fuse with the responsibilities of the parents can allow educators to be true to their responsibilities and provide the best of their duties.

5. No surprises

Make sure you are 100% transparent with the parents with regard to any of the issues you might be facing with the children. If teachers think that there is some problem they wish to convey to the parent, there should be full transparency with the parents regarding the same. However, even for teachers when they inform problems, some difficult parents might just forget about the issue or do not take it seriously. In such a case, the teacher should send in regular reminders regarding the student’s problem all year round.

6. Alert the management and the principal

While there is no denying that parents know their kids the best. However, at times, the mindset of a few parents can lead the teachers into thinking that they are challenging to deal with. In such cases, it is best to keep the principal, supervisor, or special education department manager in the loop. This is for the simple fact that they might call a special meeting and press on the issue which can make the work easier for the teacher and the student as well.

7. Try to find a common ground

Some parents can be difficult to persuade and explain. However, understanding what they’re unhappy about can make things easier for the teachers. Ask them to explain the issue, make sure to not interrupt, and find things you agree on. Make the parent feel that you are on the same page and your ultimate objective is also to make the situation better for the child in terms of education. At the same time, do not allow yourself to be pressurised or persuaded. But find a common ground, just for the sake of the child.

8. Keep your cool

you know you are dealing with a difficult parent, maintain your cool and composure. Keep the student’s interest in the center, and try to find a common interest. Often, a parent can be difficult which can make the teachers irritable and agitated. However, in such situations, remember not to take the mindset or mind block seriously. Instead, try to clear that block, but patiently, and politely. 

9. Show examples 

Show examples 

As a teacher dealing with special children on a regular basis, educators might have success stories and examples of techniques that might have worked for other children who must have had the same condition or compromise. Using these examples as a motivation for parents can help to a great extent. For example— The teacher might have a student who had dyscalculia and needed special education for the same. The teacher taught them using a few methods and programs which turned out to be successful for the child. Presenting this in the way of an example can prove to parents that they might not be on the right track with their thinking.

10. Establish a parent resource area

The reason why a few parents can be difficult to deal with is that they might not have the perfect knowledge of the disability, and how their child can be taught with multiple resources, techniques, and programs. For this purpose, it would be a good idea to set up a small room, with multiple resources like books, magazines, handouts and a computer where parents can be invited every now and then so that they too can be educated about what they are misinterpreting. These rooms can also have past projects displayed along with future projects. 

Significance of parent-teacher cooperation

Determining the needs of a special child requires the consistent collaboration of the teachers and parents to build a quality life for these children. Therefore, the relationship shared by the teacher and the parent of a special needs child can be an important factor in determining their personality, behavior, and learning. 

This relationship is important : 

  • To efficiently identify the areas of development where a student might need attention and work together to determine the appropriate course of action and objectives.
  • Not only that, but a child with special needs becomes more motivated toward learning and shows significantly improved behavior when they transition through a healthy parent-teacher relationship. 
  • Having mentioned that, mutual respect and an open-ended communication system between teachers and parents also aid the students in mighty ways.

Nonetheless, if the parent and teacher share a destructive or rather negative air of partnership, it can be extremely confusing for a child already struggling to function at their optimum potential. 

Before we wind up…

Formal schooling has always stood strong on the foundation of teacher-parent collaboration. When it comes to children with special needs, the role of this partnership extends many folds and requires diligence and care through its facilitation. 

To ensure that the child isn’t devoid of the love, care, support and guidance they require to grow and develop into independent and successful human beings, both the ends of the school and home need to constantly amend their functioning according to the changing needs of the child. 

This article thus shares the importance of this partnership in a child’s life and how an educator can navigate through difficult parenting styles/parents without having to alter the quality of the environment being provided to the special needs child.

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