By Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP
The parent-teacher conference can be an efficient tool to communicate with your child’s teacher. Below are a few tips on how to make that meeting more productive:
1) Show up: My wife, now retired from teaching fourth grade for 28 years, often said that the parents with whom she most needed to talk rarely scheduled a conference. Children perform best in school when their parents are involved in their kid’s education.
2) Come with a positive attitude. Parents should recognize that most teachers are hardworking, caring educational professionals who toil for little pay. Complaining, whining or taking your child’s word against the teacher during a conference is not going to be productive. Be positive but try to address the issue(s).
3) Make your point. Don’t leave the conference without getting to discuss your top concern. Let the teacher run the meeting but ensure in that meeting you have an opportunity to express your primary issue.
4) Speak in concretes. Telling a child that he/she is “not working up to his/her potential” or “he/she is behaving in an immature manner” provides little direction as to what the child needs to do to improve. During the conference try to answer the question, “What does it look like?” For example, “Billy must remain in his seat during the entire math period.” Or, “Billy will complete his seat work on time.”
5) Determine what each of you will do. Once the goals are concretely defined, the parent and teacher must decide what they will do to achieve the stated objectives. For example, The teacher will praise Billy when he remains in his seat or raises his hand. If Billy fails to complete a piece of homework the teacher, that day will have Billy redo that work during recess or after school. The parent will reinforce Billy with praise and tokens toward a fun experience when Billy brings home a good paper or test. The parent will consistently enforce a routine in which Billy completes his homework to earn access to “electronics.”
6) Follow up. Set a date to communicate, by phone or email, to discuss your child’s progress. If the child needs more help, set another appointment.
Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for nearly 40 years. He worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He provided forensic consultations in the areas of family law, personal injury, and estate planning. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for the Educational Psychology Department at Northern Arizona University.
He is the author of “Who’s Raising Whom? A Parent’s Guide to Effective Child Discipline,” “Coping with Your Adolescent,” “How Come I Love Him But Can’t Live With Him? Making Your Marriage Work Better,” “The Graduate Course You Never Had: How to Develop, Manage, Market a Flourishing Private Practice—With and Without Managed Care,” and “Too Busy Earning a Living to Make Your Fortune? Discover the Psychology of Achieving Your Life Goals.” TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.