Dealing with an angry parent in your children’s ministry is always difficult, for both the parent and the leader. It is important to respond well when faced with this scenario. This blog post will walk you through some ways that you can respond effectively without making them angrier or offending them.
Respond to an angry parent with empathy
First, it is important to understand where the parent’s anger comes from before responding in any way. If you can put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they are feeling, then you will have a better understanding of why they are angry at that moment. Responding with empathy makes them feel heard even if you don’t agree or totally understand their perspective. This will open up conversation opportunities later on down the road.
Show concern for both sides of the issue without making assumptions about who might be wrong or right based on your limited information so far. You may want to ask questions like “Why do you think this happened?”, “Can I help find out more about what went wrong?” etc..
Do not make assumptions about why an angry parent is mad. Sometimes people lash out because they are afraid of losing something, feel helpless or frustrated with a situation that feels beyond their control. Other times parents get mad when they have been hurt by someone else, especially if it happens more than once.
Going back to step one and empathizing will help you figure this out. If there is any way for you to find out more information before talking with the parent then do it! You want as many data points as possible so don’t rush into things without all the facts first unless safety becomes an issue (i.e., child abuse).
Be honest but kind when responding to what might be a difficult question. A parent might want to know why their child is not in your class anymore or if you think they are doing something wrong as parents. You may also feel like the parent might be upset with you personally which could lead to an awkward conversation where both parties end up feeling bad when it probably really isn’t about either of you specifically (unless they do have some sort of personal vendetta against you).
It can be tough for leaders who work hard at relationships and see themselves as friends to parents but this requires even more self-control during these types of situations so that interactions stay positive. It’s important to keep working on building strong relationships, speaking truth into lives while being kind, empathetic and patient rather than defending yourself or throwing accusations at the parent.