Dealing with Oppositional Parents

An Educator's Guide to Conflict Resolution

A Desirable Parental Role
Joy Klepfer

When dealing with oppositional parents, it may be beneficial to consider the role of parents in their child's education in order to guide them in an appropriate direction.

The role of parents may be divided into three main categories: (1) the parent's role in showing support for their child's education, (2) the parent's role in making their home a good place for learning, and (3) the parent's role in helping with homework. Following a brief introduction to each topic, a list of suggestions for parents has been provided. It may be helpful to share these suggestions with parents.

By recognizing the roles of parents in their child's education and offering them support to reach those roles, staff members are communicating to parents that their role in their child's education is valued. By working together, staff and parents can create and maintain a high-quality educational program for children.

Showing Support for a Child's Education
According to a research study by Ronald Ferguson, "Nearly half of a child's achievement in school can be accounted for by factors outside the school, including parent support." Consequently, the most important support any child can receive comes from the parents. This support ranges from being responsible for making sure that the child arrives at school well-rested, well-fed, and ready to learn, to setting high expectations for their child. The following are suggestions of how parents can support their child's education:

* Attendance: Good school attendance is important to academic achievement. When students are absent from school they miss vital instruction. Parents have control over their child's attendance and this includes arriving on time to school, and not taking students out in the middle of the school day.
* Attitude: Parents need to display a positive attitude toward school in general. If parents have a positive attitude, the child will also have that positive attitude toward school. Parents must be careful in how they address school concerns in front of their child. If they display a negative attitude toward school, their child may adopt that as his/her own attitude toward school.
* Priority: Education must be given a top priority for it to come out on top. Therefore, parents must make education their first priority, above all other after school activities.
* Support: Children need their parent's help. When a child needs help on homework or other special projects, it is their parents that they turn to. Parents need to offer support and help their children. They may even need to find help outside of the home, a tutor, for example.
* Role Model: The parent needs to be a positive role model for the child in helping to shape the child's opinions and attitudes about learning.
* Get Involved: Research reveals that high self-esteem and student achievement are closely related to positive parental involvement in school. When parents get involved at school it can be a motivating factor to the child. It tells the child that the parents think that school is important.
* Communication: Parents need to keep in touch with their child's school and have a positive relationship with the teacher.

Making a Home a Good Place for Learning
As their child's first teachers, there are many things that parents can do within their home to make it a good place for learning.
* Read, Read, Read: One of the most important things a parent can do for their child's education is to read to their child or have their child read to them. Parents can also encourage children to read by themselves. It is also important for children to see their parents reading. Trips to the local library are always encouraged.
* High Expectations: Parents need to set high expectations for their child's behavior and learning.
* Praise and Encouragement: When parents offer praise and encouragement, they have a positive influence on the child's motivation and confidence in becoming a successful learner.
* Effort: Parents need to emphasize effort as well as achievement.
* Routines: It is important for parents to establish family routines that include time for completing homework, completing daily chores, eating meals as a family, and having a regular bedtime.
* Television: Parents need to monitor their child's television wisely. It is important to limit the amount of time that a child spends watching television, as well as the types of television that they are watching. Parents can help their children choose television shows that will enhance their learning.
* After School Activities: In order for education to be a priority, children need to be limited on the number of after school activities they are involved in on a regular basis. While after school activities such as sports, scouts, music, or others have numerous benefits, it is important for parents to remember that school needs to be the first priority. The parents are responsible for making sure that these other activities are not impeding on their child's education.
* Listen: It is important for a parent to encourage their child to share information with them about school. Parents need to listen to their child and respond with understanding.
* Reinforce Learning: Parents can reinforce learning by taking their children on visits to museums, parks, or theaters. These informal activities can be some of the most enjoyable and important learning experiences for children.
* Monitor Grades: Parents need to be aware of their children's grades. Parents can reinforce and praise accomplishments, and offer assistance where additional work may be needed.

Helping With Homework
As stated earlier, many children can not succeed in school by themselves. They need parental support. One way for parents to support their children is by helping them with homework.
* Provide a Quiet Place: It is important that children have a suitable place to do their studying. This should be a quiet, organized place, away from the distractions of the home (television, phone, and loud music).
* Reward Progress: Parents should use a lot of praise to reward good achievement and effort and display their child's good work.
* Talk About Homework: Parents need to talk to their children each day about their homework. They should check the student's homework to be sure it is complete and ask their child questions about the homework. But they should not do the homework for the child.
* Schedules: It may be necessary for parents to help their child develop a homework schedule. Parents may also need to help their child break their homework into smaller tasks, and help them plan for long term assignments.

Humphries, Sybil, "Parents Have Homework, Too." [Online] Available at, 1998.

Liontos, Lynn, "How Can I Be Involved in My Child's Education?" [Online] Available at, 1999.

National Association for the Education of Young Children, "Making Child Care Work for Everyone: Early Years are Learning Years," [Online] Available at, 1999.

"Parents Need to Become Involved in their Child's Education." [Online] Available at

Raimondo, Bev, "Tearing Down the Wall Between Parents and School." [Online] Available at, Winter 1998.

Wildman, Louis and Wang, Jianjun, "An Empirical Examination of the Effects of Family Commitment in Education on Student Achievement in Seventh Grade Science," in Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Vol. 32 (1995), No. 8, pp. 833-837.