As a music teacher, you’re not just teaching children to play; sometimes you’re teaching parents to play nice! Some parents may be overly involved during class; some may not engage at all. Some parents will push their child too hard; others won’t practice a note after class. Some may have unrealistic expectations of you, the curriculum, or their child’s ability or progress. They may be critical of your teaching methods, the class schedule, or your payment policy. Bottom line – at some point in your Musikgarten teaching career you will come across an unpleased parent. But there are things you can do to prevent and smooth over issues before they get out of hand. After all, parents are your customers and you want to keep them coming back!
Here are a few smart ways to manage moms n’ dads, and keep your Musikgarten humming along in perfect harmony.
- Set Expectations Early! Discuss what is expected of parents, students, yourself and your staff. Provide written guidelines, a poster in your studio, or some type of expectations “contract.” Keep rules and consequences clear and concise. For example, how will you handle late payments? No payments? No-shows? Behavior issues? Iron it out now, before you’re put in a tough spot later.
- Communicate How To Communicate! Let parents know the best time(s) and preferred way(s) to contact you in person, via email and on the phone. Don’t feel obligated to give out your personal or cell phone number or to answer calls during dinner. If a parent wants your attention between busy back-to-back classes, let them know a better time to chat.
- Listen Up! Active listening is critical, especially if there’s a problem. Make eye contact, repeat what you’re hearing and ask for clarification where needed. Make sure you understand the issue before diving in with a solution. Even if a parent is voicing a complaint, wait until they finish to respond. The parent will feel respected and heard, they won’t feel the need to repeat it, and you’ll know the whole argument before you reply.
- No Time Like Now! Don’t let little things fester. Address a problem as soon as it arises and nip it in the bud. Encourage parents to voice their concerns promptly, too.
“One of the best tools in my tool box is a studio policy with very clear expectations for students and parents. I also try to keep the lines of communications open. I touch base with parents frequently through email, or one on one. That way we can nip problems in the bud before they become out of control. I have found that the majority of my families are respectful if you are clear about what you want.” -Paulette Amory, Early Childhood Music School
- Do The Math. If you have a problem with one parent, address that parent one-on-one. If you’re having the same problem with many parents (e.g. lots of families in the habit of arriving late or lingering too long after class), then address it as a group or in an email as a “friendly reminder.”
- Focus On Facts, Not Feelings. Having a heated discussion? Keep personal feelings out of it. Focus on the facts (“Your payments are consistently late…”) and the impact of those (“So I am not able to pay my staff promptly.”) but not personal feelings (“I feel like you’re taking advantage of me!”). If the problem is with a child’s behavior, focus on the behavior and the impact of that behavior. Then involve mom and dad in the solution. For example, “I had to remind Parker to stop throwing instruments five times today. It’s disruptive to the rest of the class and I know it’s not fun for Parker. How can we work together to help him?”
- Follow Up, Fast! Document important conversations and solutions immediately in an email to the parent. Then, if the solution seems to be working, let the parent know and thank them so they know you’re paying attention. If the problem continues, you’ll have a handy record of your attempts to remedy – especially important in the case of payment or behavior issues.
- Be Consistent! Don’t play favorites or give preferential treatment such as discounts or allowing disruptive behavior to go unchecked. Even if close friends or family join your class, treat everyone equally.
- Anticipate Conflicts. Don’t be surprised – or take it personally – when a parent isn’t happy about something. As the saying goes, you can’t please 100% of the people, 100% of the time. All you can do is listen empathetically and respond with respect and professionalism. So be kind as kind to yourself as you are to your customers!
- Ask For Feedback. Once a quarter, ask parents to provide specific, constructive feedback about you and your studio either in the form of a free survey or email. This shows parents that you truly care about their opinions and gives them the opportunity to be heard.
Tell us teachers, how do you manage parents? Share your questions, thoughts, ideas, and advice with us here.