Talking in front of parents has been something I've been working on since my credential program days and it will probably be something I will always be working on. I've learned a lot of tips along the way and I am here to share those tips with you!
Tip #1: Parents want to know you love their child.
I had a professor that used to tell us that parents are trusting us with their most precious possession - their child! Putting this in perspective helps you prepare some positive, complimentary things to say about this child during your meeting. Whether you are dealing with a behavior issue, academic issue, or both, you need to be prepared with some kind and positive things to say about the child. It starts the whole meeting off on a positive note and shows the parent that you see the good in their child.
Tip #2: State you observations.
Whenever I have a difficult thing to talk to a parent about - such as a child's poor behavior or an academic issue - I always start with, "In the classroom I am noticing _______." I back this statement up with my anecdotal notes or work samples to further support my point. Don't go inserting your opinion - just state the facts.
Tip #3: Be solution-oriented.
You want the parent to know that you are on the same side as them. You want them to know that at the end of the day, you want their child to succeed inside and outside the classroom. So if there is a problem, the conversation should not focus on blaming someone for the issue but focusing on how to solve the issue. Ask the parent if they have any tips to share that have worked at home. Or maybe they know of something in particular that might motivate the child. Create a list of small goals and a timeline for when each goal is to be assessed. Schedule a time to meet back with the parent to discuss the progress made.
Tip #4: End on a high note.
Always, always, always end the meeting on a positive note. Share another positive thing about their child and thank the parent for taking the time to meet with you. You want the parent to walk out feeling confident that with you on their side, their child will succeed.
Tip #5: When in doubt, have a witness. And document, document, document.
We all have that *one* parent that is accusatory, uncooperative, and just downright mean. If this is happening, you need to have a witness with you in your meeting - preferably an administrator. Even if you aren't dealing with a crazy mean parent, it is always a good idea to document your meetings so you can keep it all straight and have a record of what when down. You never know when you will need to pull that documentation out to CYA (cover your @**).