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How to Deal With Difficult Parents

We all know them … the parents you just can’t keep happy. You have met them if you serve in a church or school. They are the parents that always have a complaint, are never satisfied and never say thanks. Many times we allow this small minority to cloud our perceptions of the majority of amazing parents we partner with because they are just so loud. A few years ago at an amazing event, we had one parent who was frustrated because there were just “too many kids there” … the event was “unsafe” … her middle school kids would not be “safe.” Even after one of our amazing volunteers explained why we had the biggest crowd of our history and how we worked to helps kids have a safe experience, the parent took her teens and left. What do you do with that? Here is what we have learned over the years …

1. Some parents will never understand what we do and why we do it. Many parents will never understand the passion we have for our calling as a minister or an educator. Go ahead and come to terms with the fact that some people will never get it!

2. Listen and process even when it’s that chronic complaining parent. Just listen and learn what you can. Many times complaints come from areas in your ministry that need some tweaking.

3. Always remember we partner with parents and never compete with parents. No matter what you think about a parent, remember you are there to support them. You will be a teen’s small group leader or student pastor for a few years. They are parents for life.

4. Return calls and emails quickly. When a parent has a complaint or issue, just return the email or make the call as soon as you can. Most parents (even the chronic complainer) just need their questions answered.

5. Make sure you know why you do what you do and continually cast that vision. You always need to be able to explain why you do what you do to anyone who asks, especially a parent. If you can’t do that, why would any parent trust you or believe in you?

6. Give grace and be patient. Being a parent is hard; parenting a teen is sometimes impossible. Slow down, give grace, be patient. You will be amazed what a gentle response in a tense moment will do. 

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Michael is a follower of Christ, a husband, a dad and a pastor. He serves Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee as the Executive Pastor. He has served in multiple family ministry roles as a kids, student, and family pastor for 16 years. He’s also the Team Leader @ Parent Ministry for Kids and drinks way too much Diet Mountain Dew! Follow Michael on twitter at @michael_bayne.