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Helicopter Parents: How to Handle Them

When you’re sitting in your classroom and you hear the whap, whap, whap, of helicopter parents flying down the hallway towards your room, what do you do? Panic? Hide under your desk? Take out the white flag? Put on your perfect teacher face? Let's dive in to how to deal with helicopter parents in the classroom.

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Helicopter parents paying you a visit in the classroom can be hard to handle. It can put you in a sticky situation; especially if you are unprepared to deal with the helicopter parent flying towards you.

While running away sounds like the easiest way to avoid being the landing pad, there are tips on how to deal with helicopter parents without breaking a sweat.

First let's ask: What are helicopter parents? For those of you who are not familiar with this terminology, congratulations; here is the low down.

A helicopter parent is a parent who takes a more than necessary interest in his/her student’s life. I know that sounds like it could never be a bad thing but I assure you it can. There are some negative effects of helicopter parents.

Often times, helicopter parents in our classroom hinder a child’s independence by being an overprotective parent and excessive in their involvement in his/her child’s life. This can look like a parent doing the homework or quitting an extra-curricular activity for the student.

Dealing with helicopter parents in your classroom with poise and grace is possible. Here I have given you 7 seven ways to help you land the helicopter without being squashed yourself.

How to Deal with Helicopter Parents

Tip #1: Listen!

Communication is an important part of any relationship (and a later tip in this blog). One of the biggest parts of communication is listening. When a helicopter parent comes busting through your door, listen to why they are there.

Parents aren’t trying to make your day hard. They aren’t trying to hinder their child’s independence. Parents (helicopter or not) are trying to make sure their child is getting the best education they can.

Another aspect to think about and listen for is circumstances. Maybe the parents see the child isn’t a self-starter so they are overcompensating.

Maybe this is their one and only child because of pregnancy loss or some other horrible circumstance and they are an overprotective parent of this child because he/she is all they will ever have.

The point is, while it can be frustrating, you need to listen and not make assumptions. Not all parents are trying to bully you. Not all parents are trying to challenge you. All parents, hopefully, are doing what they feel is best for their child.

Tip #2: Put the Gloves Away

One of the worst things you can do when faced with confrontation; getting defensive. Don’t get upset with an overprotective parent when they are telling you what you should or should not be doing.

Justify what you are doing in a simple way one time. Then do the hardest thing ever, let it go. Using phrases like, “I understand your frustration,” or “What do you suggest we do to help?” can go a long way. Listen to what they are suggesting and try to compromise.

Tip #3: No Sugar Please

A great way to keep the blades running on helicopter parents in your classroom is by giving them a bunch of sugar coated half-truths.

Make sure you are being forward with parents. If they give you a suggestion and it’s just not possible to do in your room, be forward and tell them the truth.

If you aren’t forward, you’re going to put yourself in a bad spot where you may be making empty promises or giving parents the wrong idea about what you can or cannot do.

Tip #4 Honesty Is the Best Policy

Honesty is one of those virtues that can never be beat! When you are talking to a parent about how his/her child is performing in your classroom be honest with them.

Don’t tell them things are getting better if they are not. Don’t tell them their student is an angel if he/she is the reason you go home and drink a glass bottle of wine (ok maybe don’t tell them about the wine part).

Honesty will help the parents see what is happening at school which may help them realize why their student has a little more work to do at home or why he/she has a particular grade.

Tip # 5 Communicate!

I’m not even going to try to come up with a crafty name for this tip. Communication fixes so many things that it could be a tip for almost everything.

Communicating regularly with parents about progress and fallbacks can save you from so many questions later on. If you don’t have time for a phone call for every student (which is understandable), try to use a note home or a quick email to the parents every other week or even once a month.

Having good communication throughout the year puts parents at ease and it keeps you more organized in the long run.

Tip #6 Border Control

No, I don’t mean put up a wall between the hallway and your classroom door but you do need to set up boundaries. Some parents think anytime they see you, it is the perfect time time to talk about their student.

Make sure you set up boundaries with parents about when they should address concerns and how they can address concerns. For example, if a parent approaches you at a basketball game your son is playing in, you might say, “I completely understand your concern and I would love to talk about it. Can I call you tomorrow at 4:00 to discuss this issue?”

This will allow you to continue to enjoy watching your son play and tell the parent now is not the time to talk. If you need to, set up “office hours” for parents to call and talk. If you would rather, you can also ask parents to email you with concerns at the beginning of the year in a newsletter.

Tip #7 Students First

We work for the students. We come to school for the students. We decorate for students. The students should always be the main focus of your conversation when talking to a parent.

Make sure you keep the parents focused on what their concern is with their student and not on what who did last year or how you decided to do something this year.

If you focus on the student, there is no room for personal attacks or things to get out of hand.

Learning how to deal with helicopter parents can be difficult but if you remember the seven tips above it can make landing that helicopter much more successful.

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Are you interested in additional ways you can help improve the parent-teacher relationship? Check out this blog post on positive parent-teacher communication.

Do you have a personal story of how you handled helicopter parents in your classroom? Share your tips and strategies below and you just might be featured in an upcoming blog post!

Don't forget to check out the FREE MEMBERS LIBRARY! Grab some amazing resources for your students today!

Until next time,

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