« Motivation Issues for 2008? Tell Us What You Think | Main | Boosting Motivation with Smaller Classes »

Study Says: Obnoxious Parents=Burnt Out Teachers


Tara Parker-Pope, the author of a new health blog at the New York Times, points to an interesting study of teachers in Germany. It suggests that overly demanding parents, not unruly students or long hours, might be the biggest reason why teachers lose their motivation to teach and eventually quit the profession.

I am sure many former teachers in the United States would agree. And, in fact, some had strong opinions to voice in response to Parker-Pope's posting of the study findings. Their comments are worth reading because you can feel the deep levels of frustration in their words.

Here's one reader's response to the study: "I taught for almost ten years but left the classroom for the very reason stated above - parents. I loved the students I taught, I loved my subject I taught, but I hated the constant questions from parents about why a child got a B or C, how can they fail even though they never did any work, and why didn’t the test come home the next day. I loved the parents who were reasonable, who looked at the assignments and made their children do them. I never minded answering how I arrived at a grade, but those parents who believed Cs were failing and As were the only acceptable grade drove me from a career I loved."

I am not a teacher, but I am a youth and high school sports coach. So I can identify with this perspective, because sports brings out the best and the worst in parents, and not much in between. I've seen it up close and personal. Education is similar because parents see their children's success or failure as a reflection of themselves. And that's when emotions can spill over into anger and frustration and lead to "helicopter parenting."

But how bad are most parents? And what should schools do to ensure good teachers are not leaving the profession because of overly demanding parents? What has been your experience?


The school need to help the teacher cope with this, and give him help when the situation get out of control.

It is always important to go to the primary sources. In reading through the study as published, two things stand out. One, the focus of the study was on responses to perfectionism, not sources of stress. Three variables measured for perceived expectation of perfection were colleagues, students and parents.

Two, while the study did not identify causality, it did identify differential responses to the three stressors (perceived expectations of perfection from colleagues, students and parents). In the first two cases, there were signicant responses of active coping strategies. In the third, significant responses of avoidant coping were found.

While certainly further work needs to be done, scholar educators should be cautious about leaping to the conclusion (as the health journalist for the NY Times did) that "the problem" lies in the expectations of parents. Certainly one valid response might be to explore means of supporting teachers in active rather than avoidant responses. This might include assistance in reframing perceptions of loss (found to be contributory to burnout) to perceptions of challenge (found not to be contributory, and more typical or response to the perceived expectations of students and colleagues.

I read the article discussed above and found it a bit interesting. I would probably be one of the parents who would be considered overly demanding. I have a child with high functioning autism, who is in second grade. His teachers are under trained, the and I have had to fight through the administration to get a decent education for my son. Am I demanding, you bet I am. I expect my child to be properly educated and not just pushed through school. I will accept nothing less than a 100% effort from those entrusted with educating my child. If some teachers leave the profession because of me being demanding, they should not have been teaching to begin with.

Some parents definitely bring stress to the job. My school allows parents to escort children to their lockers (elementary grades.) Many leave immediately, but it is the same ones, morning after morning who feel the need to talk. Here I am, rushing to get ready for a class to enter, and I have a parent who has nothing to do but take up my time with chit chat about their favorite subject! I, of course, am gracious, but what I am really thinking is, "Why don't you get a job?! Or volunteer? You are suffocating your children, AND me." There are some stay-at-home parents who have a balanced life, but so many more who worry and scrutinize over every burp their children make. And, yes, that adds stress to a teacher's job. You don't need a study to know that.

I've read the article and some of the responses, I teach at a small private school and have witnessed wonderful parents who take an interest in their child's learning and on the flip-side, parents who believe their child does no wrong and any struggling with core-subject MUST be the teacher's lack of training. I have no problem with parents bringing in material or asking about how their child is performing but to be constantly second guessed is frustrating and demeaning, especially when it's from a parent who has little to no understanding (or any credentials) of the educational process.

To Martha/Mom - if you're such a good judge of what good teaching is why don't you home school?

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Ed: I've read the article and some of the responses, I read more
  • Diana: Some parents definitely bring stress to the job. My school read more
  • Martha/Mom: I read the article discussed above and found it a read more
  • Margo/Mom: It is always important to go to the primary sources. read more
  • baby girl: The school need to help the teacher cope with this, read more




Technorati search

» Blogs that link here