Sometimes parents need to discuss unpleasant topics with their child’s teacher. Concerns about academics, social situations, or frustrations your child is sharing about her classroom experience are examples. You want to be an advocate for your child, but don’t want to overstep your bounds or create a hostile relationship between you and the teacher — or your child and the teacher. These tips can help everyone involved achieve the same goal — a positive learning environment in which your child can thrive. Here's how to make a potentially tricky parent-teacher meeting go as smoothly as possible.

1. Schedule a Conference

Sending a long email that contains a list of grievances doesn’t offer the best opportunity to resolve the situation. Additionally, emotions can be incorrectly misread in emails. The best approach is to schedule a face-to-face meeting.

2. Let the Teacher Know Ahead of Time What You'd Like to Discuss

No one likes being blindsided. When requesting a conference, let the teacher briefly know what you’d like to discuss. "I’m hoping we can talk about Sue’s progress in math," or "I’d like to talk to you about some concerns Michael has raised to us."

3. Have Your Child Attend With You

Teachers appreciate the chance to hear concerns directly from a student. Your child may feel more comfortable sharing items in this meeting that she’s not willing to discuss during class.

4. Keep the Meeting Between Parents and Teachers Only

If she’s feeling so uncomfortable, don’t force your child to attend. Some topics are best resolved when the student isn’t present.

5. Bring Specific Notes

The topic will be more concrete if you provide specific examples and details.

6. Avoid Accusatory Language

The goal isn’t to accuse your child’s teacher of not doing her job, but rather to share information and develop a plan to help your child succeed.

7. Don’t Be Confrontational

We’ve all experienced that conversation where we felt threatened or defensive. It causes everyone to shut down and nothing gets accomplished. Steer clear of this.

8. Listen to the Teacher

A conversation involves more than one person speaking. It’s important to hear what the teacher has to say.

9. Remember There Are Three Sides to Every Issue

Whenever there’s an issue, there is one person’s story, the other person’s story, and the truth — which lies somewhere in the middle. To date you’ve only heard your child’s version of events. It’s important to keep an open mind to learn other information, too.

10. Outline a Plan That Involves All Parties 

Walk away from the conference with an action plan that involves everyone. What can people do differently to achieve a new outcome? Write down the items discussed.

11. Give it Time

Changes aren’t going to happen overnight. Don’t email the teacher if things haven’t drastically improved by the next day.

12. Revisit Your Concerns

If positive changes haven’t occurred within a reasonable amount of time, contact the teacher again. Refer to the action plan and talk about changes that you had hoped would have occurred by now.

More about Parent-Teacher Conferences:

5 Questions to Ask Your Child's Teacher Right Now         

What to Ask - And Tell - Your Child's New Teacher

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