When Parents Won’t Respect Your Boundaries – 7 Rules That Have Saved My Sanity

When Parents Won't Respect Your Boundaries – 7 Steps That Have Saved My Sanity

The one thing that teachers don’t have a lot of is time. When we do have free time, school is the last thing we want to think of. So, when overbearing or well-meaning (sometimes one and the same) parents don’t value our personal time or respect professional boundaries, this can lead to teacher burnout and mental fatigue. And who has time for that?

Here are some of the situations that we find ourselves facing with parents – and what can be done to maintain boundaries on behalf of our mental health.

Scenario #1: A parent “friend requests” you on social media.

This happens all the time. Parents want to know as much as they can about the person that will be instructing their most valuable gift, their child. But we NEED to have our personal thoughts and beliefs separate from our professional lives. As we have seen with the pandemic, many viewpoints can alienate parents and teachers from one another.

What should you do?  

Eliminate these problems before they happen by explaining your social media policies. There are many classroom apps like Remind and Class Dojo that can be used to build a classroom community without impeding privacy. If a parent slides into your DMs, politely direct them to your email or classroom app.

Scenario #2: A parent sees you at the grocery store and wants to chat about their child. 

This happens frequently, especially to teachers who live in their own school zone, or in a small town where the entire town is their school zone.

What should you do?

Make sure you keep the shopping cart rolling. Say hello, how are you, and don’t leave any time for conversation. If you are like me and usually don’t notice people until they are standing right in front of your face asking about their child, answer succinctly. Simply say, “I see you have some concerns. Email me on Monday to set up an appointment.” Then, make a beeline for the checkout.  

Scenario #3: Overbearing parents constantly interrupt online sessions to whisper answers to their children and question your teaching.

This has become a real problem this year with parents who feel as though it is their right to control anything that happens in their home. I had a parent interrupt the whole flow of my lesson to tell me I spelled a word wrong when I was teaching my kindergarten students how to write with invented spelling. I kid you not.

What should you do?

If a parent has a question during your session, politely ask if you can speak with them after class. If the parent continues to interrupt, feel free to mute or remove them from your session. These are your classes, and they need to respect you. An email outlining online etiquette would also be appropriate in eliminating unwanted parental involvement.

Scenario #4: A parent sends texts and emails on the weekends and after hours. 

It is easy to get caught up in the trap of being too easily accessible. After all, we want our families to be successful and we want to build relationships, but we NEED specific boundaries, or we will crash and burn faster than an out-of-control car at the Indy 500.

What should you do?

Be very clear at Open House about the times and ways that you can be contacted. And then, stick to the policy! Class Dojo and Remind have quiet hours and office hours. An automated response to emails that are sent outside of hours can also redirect parents. They will get the hint quickly.

Scenario #5: You get invited by parents to go to their children’s birthday parties and sporting events.

This is a tough one as I know many teachers who do this, as they love how happy the students are to see them there. But it shows favoritism and sends mixed messages. On top of that, who can afford a birthday gift on a teacher’s salary?

What should you do?

Turn down any invitations outside of school functions. Make this a part of the policy at the beginning of the year, so there is no confusion and parents will know not to ask.

Scenario #6: Unreasonable demands are consistently made by a parent, such as asking to make sure their child eats their snacks.

Any demand made by a parent is unreasonable. We teach parents how to treat us by ensuring all dialogue is courteous and maintains boundaries.

What should you do?

Always put the unreasonable demand back on the parent by offering a suggestion or helpful hint. In this scenario, you could say, “Why don’t you include a note in your child’s lunchbox reminding them to eat all their snacks?”

Scenario #7: Your date is interrupted by a parent who comes over to your table at a restaurant. 

Well, this is awkward. The last thing we need on a night out is to think about school. Hopefully, this is not your first date, as it very well could be your last.

What should you do?

Be cordial and then hit them with, “Well, let me let you get back to your food.” This is a very polite way of saying, “I would like to get back to my food and night out without being bothered.” Deflection here is key.

Teachers should be ready and willing to enforce boundaries in order to maximize their own sanity and mental health. We often make the mistake of believing that good teachers should accommodate every single request at whatever time they happen. We should NOTOur free time is our own time. We have earned it.

Also Check Out:

When Parents Won't Respect Your Boundaries – 7 Rules That Have Saved My Sanity

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Angela Barton

Veteran Member

Angela is a veteran kindergarten teacher. When she’s not teaching or writing, she can be found thrifting or spending time with her husband, daughters and two Maltese dogs.

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