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How Do I Handle a Parent Verbally Abusing Faculty?

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I am a secretary in a private elementary school. Two years ago the former principal retired. She was a nun who had very deep ties to the community considering she had been principal since the 60s. The new principal is a lay person who came from a completely different diocese (an “outsider”), however she is a professional whereas the former principal played favorites. Since the change two mothers have become verbally abusive to the current administrator, myself, and others. Furthermore, they do this in front of the children and other parents and they spread malicious gossip and rumors. It is escalating and my boss just shrugs her shoulders and says “oh well.” I have been employed here for 8 years and I have never had problems with these two mothers (or anyone for that matter) before the retirement of the former principal. This issue needs to be resolved.

I feel like their issue stems from (1) them not being able to cope with the change (2) the former principal playing favorites with them and allowing them to “take over” but now that she’s gone they don’t get their way (3) the mothers not having enough to do at home and being jealous of teachers who get to spend the day with their children that they are overly attached to. I have an idea that when the mothers come into my office to rage I will (try to) calmly listen and write down their concerns and let them know I am listening in an effort to help improve their experience here. I hope that it will deescalate the situation, make them feel like they are being listened to. Is this a good solution? What if this doesn’t work? Alternative solutions? PLEASE HELP. I’m concerned for the morale of the school and worry about kids who may overhear…and little ones really do hear everything. (age 33, from US)

How Do I Handle a Parent Verbally Abusing Faculty?

Answered by on -

A.

A: I’m sorry that you have encountered this problem and that these parents are making your job difficult. I think the approach you have outlined is a good one, most likely the best one, but you also need to understand that for some folks just “listening” isn’t what they want and it could get worse if they feel that you have also become a part of the problem (i.e. listening to their concerns but not doing anything about them).

I also know that verbal abuse is not allowable in any work place. If their complaints truly escalate to the point of you feeling abused or harassed, you need to address it with them directly and let them know that it is inappropriate and that you will only hear them out if they can speak respectfully. If this approach doesn’t work, you should take it to your superiors and to the human resources department, school board, etc. I’m not sure of the chain of command in a private school, but there has to be a system in place to handle these sorts of issues. Don’t hesitate to use it because not only does this negatively affect you and the school morale, but I agree that children often hear and observe things that we don’t think they do.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

How Do I Handle a Parent Verbally Abusing Faculty?

Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2018). How Do I Handle a Parent Verbally Abusing Faculty?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 19, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2016/03/29/how-do-i-handle-a-parent-verbally-abusing-faculty/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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