How Can I Respond to Parents Who Seem Indifferent?

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Check Out the New Blog HowCanIRespondtoParentsWhoSeemIndifferentAn “Indifferent” Parent is one who may be unresponsive or often absent. There are multiple reasons for a parent to demonstrate a lack of involvement; however, not caring about the student is not one of them. This parent may have had a bad educational experience themself, may feel inadequate to help out, may be illiterate, or may face a language barrier.

This parent may show little to no interest in partnering; “I’ve already been in school myself” might be this parent’s mantra. They may believe that the child’s education is wholly the responsibility of the school and may not understand why or how they need to be involved.

An indifferent parent may look like this:

Daniel’s dad shows little to no interest in being involved in Daniel’s education, be it at school or at home. When asked for help on homework or projects, Daniel’s dad declares, “I did my projects without my parent’s help.. you can do the same.” The teacher notices Daniel consistently coming to school without having his homework completed or “forgetting” to get his field trip permission slips signed. At conference time, Daniel’s parents are nowhere to be seen.

It is advisable to remain positive and enthusiastic when attempting to connect with the ‘Indifferent” Parent. Try to make a connection and make the parent feel comfortable. You might try drawing them in by invoking help with one of their hobbies. Directly ask them to share their knowledge and skills with the class.

Reassure this parent that they are the expert on the child and you are there to assist and support them. This can help alleviate any perceived pressure about participating in front of the teacher or others. If language is a barrier, attempt to find a translator to make the parent feel more at ease with communication. Be sensitive toward the student who has a parent who is resistant to involvement. It may be useful to change an assignment to “adult input” as opposed to “parental input” so the student doesn’t feel awkward at having a parent who doesn’t participate.

Discuss here: How do you respond when a specific parent consistently does not attend parent conferences?

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One Response to “How Can I Respond to Parents Who Seem Indifferent?”
  1. Lynnette Rochford says:

    Parental indifference is something I really struggle to understand. I often have many parents who never come to school for conferences or Open House, and those are usually the parents with whom I really feel I need to connect. Often these reluctant parents have had a negative school experience or it may be the first time they have had a child attend school and do not realize how rigorous schools have become. Some of these parents may or may not have a consistent address, or phone number where they can be reached, and after trying most of the usual avenues of sending notes home, calling, emailing (most of these parents do not list an email address and may not have home internet access), I try to work with our “at risk” teacher or the student himself to generate ideas for involving parents in a non-threatening fashion. Negative feedback is most likely the quickest way to scare parents who are reluctant to be an active supporter of their child’s learning.

    I need to remind myself that these parents may have had a very negative school and/or home experience as a child, and they may not know how rigorous today’s schools have become. They undoubtedly love their child, but they most likely have parenting skills and values that are different than my own. I need to remind myself continually to try to stay positive and make the CHILD see the need for success in school how much fun it can be to learn. We need to make our “at-risk” students want to learn for the sake of learning, and not always because of the extrinsic rewards they may receive. Don’t get me wrong, I use extrinsic rewards at times to get a child going, too, but I want to avoid having students become addicted to them.

    Sometimes when a child has not consistently shared their learning with their parent or the parent has not responded to my notes or helped his/her child to return homework, books, or activities back to my room, it can get frustrating. *BUT when that child does finally bring back a paper note that has been signed by a parent, I really make it into a “mini” celebration for that child, and I have even sent home certificates saying “HOMEWORK Hero!” addressed to the parent. It is risky to send such a note or certificate to a parent without worrying about offending the parent, but so far, I’ve never had a negative response to such a note/certificate.

    Our “At Risk” teacher and Guidance Counselor host a “Muffins and Minutes with Mom” type of event each year to encourage moms to come to school to just spend a half-hour or so of quality time with their child at school. Dads are invited for their own “Tailgate with Dad” type of event at some point during the school year, too. We can sometimes catch a few parents who have been reluctant to visit the school when these non-threatening events are held, and we don’t try to turn these events into parent-teacher conferences at the risk of never seeing the parent again. Trying to visit casually with parents before or after the annual Music program is another opportunity to engage parents in a brief but friendly conversation about something positive. It may feel like baby steps to me as a teacher, to get these parents involved in this way, but it’s a start. I would like to know what other teachers do to get parents on board.

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