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Most Parents Fail at School-Related Crucial Conversations

According to a recent VitalSmarts’ study of 986 parents, three-fourths overestimate their effectiveness in helping their children navigate common school-related problems, including their child’s academic performance, discipline problems, and social issues like bullying. Yet when parents were asked about how they dealt with these issues in real life, thirty-five percent failed to raise key issues with teachers or administrators, and eighteen percent more tried but described their interventions as “not at all successful.”

Parents see themselves as far more skilled at these discussions than teachers and administrators, yet parents put very little responsibility on themselves.

“We found that even when parents DO take responsibility for their child’s school issues, their perceived ability is a lot higher than their actual ability to handle them,” said author David Maxfield. “In addition to highlighting this skills gap among parents, we believe the study shows the extent to which parents ‘outsource’ these issues to teachers, rather than taking responsibility for themselves to hold these key conversations that can spell success or failure for their child.”

What can parents do to master these conversations? Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield offer the following tips:

Get your motives right. It’s easy to get defensive about issues with kids. Parents and teachers both feel attacked and accused. The key to a healthy conversation is to remind yourself and the other person of the shared goal—helping the child succeed.
Defuse defensiveness. Start the conversation by assuring the other person of what you are not there to do. For example, “I’m not here to blame you. I am here to understand,” If you’re a parent, let the teacher know you want to help them succeed without creating more work or drama for them. If you’re a teacher, assure the parent it’s all about the child’s success, not criticizing the parent.
Start with facts. Use specific facts—details about incidents—to illustrate your concerns to the teacher or administrator. Use all facts available; if your child is partially at fault, be quick to admit it.

View the results of our study in the infographic below or click here to download a copy.

ParentFail infographic

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