Is there such thing as a parent being too engaged in his or her child’s education and school community? There are of course the dreaded “Helicopter Parents”, but there are also those special overinvolved parents. The two are very different.
The overinvolved parent is more meddlesome than helpful, more critical than constructive. He or she is around not so much to build bridges as to undermine their foundations, brick by brick. At least it seems that way. They are the “squeaky wheel”…the parent that must comment on every single thing. You know the one. Sound familiar?
Even if you are lucky to have a great community of parents at your school, most educators and administrators have had to deal with an overinvolved parent at one time or another. It’s not a fun thing, to be sure, but effectively managing the situation will help nip it in the bud. Here are 5 strategies for success.
1. Make sure your school-parent communications are consistent – and consistently clear. When expectations are muddled or absent, it’s much easier for an overinvolved parent to boldly step into the void and try to take over. You should be communicating with all the parents at your school (not just the high-maintenance ones) in a frequent, clear manner.
2. Don’t make exceptions. There is often a temptation to “go along” with the overinvolved parent, as it’s much more pleasant than confronting the problem head-on. But this is a mistake, for much the same reason as it’s a mistake to give in to the demands of a tantruming child: You reinforce the very behavior you’re looking to extinguish.
If you tell parents that you’re full up on chaperones for a given field trip, for example, don’t let the overinvolved parent tag along, too – this is not fair to other, non-pain-in-the-neck parents who may have wanted to come along, too.
3. Set aside the “why.” Some overinvolved parents are well-intentioned, while others are bona fide pot stirrers. You can spend a lot of time trying to decode the psychology, but in the end, the “why” behind the behavior really doesn’t matter. Your actions toward the parent should be the same regardless.
4. Provide reassurance. Oftentimes, worry is at the root of the overinvolved parent’s behavior – concern that his or her child is not measuring up somehow, either academically or socially. Or concern that the school is failing to meet some objective. If there really is no valid reason for concern, be sure the parent knows this – and also that you will be sure to let them know promptly if that ever changes.
5. Harness their energies in a positive way. This is not possible for all overinvolved parents, but some can be channeled into labor-intensive school activities in a productive way. If you’ve got a huge event or undertaking coming up, the overinvolved parent may be just the person to spearhead it…catch my drift ;-).
Click here for your copy of our free eBook, 9 Effective Strategies for Parent Engagement at Your School.