There's always one parent who insists on packing their daughter a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, despite the school's strict policy against peanut butter for the sake of other students with nut allergies. And then there's the parent whose child could do no wrong, even when they're using a straw to fire spitballs into another classmate's hair from across the room. The classmate whose parents call every other day to critique the teacher's lesson plans and offer unsolicited (and unfounded) suggestions.
Overly involved and, equally, totally unengaged parents can make a teacher's job a living hell. And you don't want to be the parent who makes the teacher's job a living hell. Because the parent who does that ends up burning the teacher out — and that does no good for anyone (including your precious child).
We reached out to teachers to share the worst type of parent they've ever had to deal with, and here's what they had to say. The takeaway: Avoid acting like the following.
"I have a few students with some serious helicopter parents, who are basically trying to do my job for me," says Lynn, a high school teacher in New Jersey. "They're constantly calling the school, sometimes even throughout the day, to check in. They send their kids with notes for me about what to look out for and how to handle certain behaviors... as if I haven't been trained through years of teaching to handle my students. They're always just watching a little too closely and it gives me (and the kids!) zero room to breathe. My students are in high school — they're too old to have helicopter parents!"
"I have one student who is always disrupting the class — so much so that I've had to kick him out of class several times this year and send him to the principle's office," says Anne, a middle school teacher in New Jersey. "But every time his mother comes to pick him up, she accuses me of treating her son differently than the other students, claiming that I just don't like him. What I don't like is when he's chucking spitballs across the room and making crude jokes in class. Still, to his mother, he can do no wrong. And I know that means his poor behaviors will never change."
"One of my students comes to class every day showing off something new; I swear her parents just give her anything she wants," says Francis, a middle school teacher in New York. "It affects the other students who don't feel like they're as loved when they don't come to school every day with a brand new Hermes bracelet or Chanel bag. It hurts their self-esteem, even though, to me and the other teachers, it's obvious that this particular student is the one with confidence issues. She wants to show off all of these material things to the other kids, but I think her parents need to realize what they're allowing to happen here: frankly, entitlement and greed."
"The worst kind of parent is one who doesn’t hold their child accountable for their behavior or lack of developmental growth and, instead, blames the teacher," says Troy Dot, a middle school teacher. "The one who expects all learning to only be done in the classroom and none at home... The parent who never looks on their lack of involvement in their child's academic future at all."
"It was really, really hard for me to see parents who were completely apathetic or just noncommunicative about their child(ren)," says Isabella. "Being a new parent myself, I can understand that parenting is super tough — however, children depend on you. For a parent just not caring about the child(ren) they send to school, breaks my heart. For those kids to go home to someone who doesn’t ask about their day, their grades, their friends... It’s just not fair."
"In my opinion, [one of the worst types of parents is the] 'he/she is never like this at home' parent," says Kate L. "I can empathize that it comes from a defensive place that they do not want to act like a behavior their teacher brings to their attention is something they would be okay with, but it is counterproductive to their child becoming a person in the world outside of them."
"Teachers spend a lot of time planning for parent meetings to discuss what both parties, as well as the student, needs to do to be successful," says Kate L. "The parents who 'yeses' you but doesn't do anything even after repeated meetings are frustrating because they care more about presenting themselves as being on board more than doing what is asked of them (of course, I'm saying that with the caveat that being a parent is not easy and life is busy and we are human)."
"These are the parents who are not together and blame everything that their kid isn’t doing on one another," says Kate L. "I think of parents who I have had meetings with both of them saying, 'I don't know what happens in that house, but this doesn't happen in mine house,' and my response was 'Well, she has completed zero percent of her homework this semester so it is not happening at either household.'"
"The worst is parents who do not communicate through direct means," says Cynthia, a high school teacher. "More than once, I've had parents contact the administration or someone above me when the problem could have been solved by reaching out to me first."
"I can't stand the parents who do the talking for their children instead of having children advocate for themselves — they set their kids up for failure," says Cynthia. "I'll have no idea if a kid needs help or is wondering about grades, and the first time I hear about it is from their parent, not the kid."
"The worst case of a parent is one who blames the teacher for their child's failure in a class," says Miranda. "We can reach out via email, phone call or even progress reports to warn the parent about their child failing, and somehow it's our fault — what we must not be doing right in our classroom. What we didn't explain in the way their child understood. What we aren't doing to make sure their child is successful. There has been such a significant shift of blame lately, where the child is never held accountable for what he or she did or didn't do to cause failing grades. It's become the teacher's fault nearly immediately."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.