The Secret to Successful Parent Conferences

How to engage parents through crucial conversations

Recently I presented a training on parent engagement and crucial conversations for the staff at a local school.  You might wonder why a school would be interested.  It was a school that already delivers a great academic program with lots of dedicated teachers.  The involvement of parents is outstanding with a stellar number of parent volunteer hours.

However, for most teachers, interaction with parents is the most challenging aspect of their job.  They know what to do for and with students, after all that is what they spent four years in college learning.  No one taught them about the parent piece.

How do you establish a positive relationship from day one?

How do you encourage quality engagement?

How do you handle those crucial conversations when opinions differ, emotions escalate and stakes are high?

Here is the secret sauce:

Let them know you care.

What does that look like?  Here are three tips:

Focus on what you really want out of the conversation– Too often we allow ourselves to get lost in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture.  Take some time before you even enter the room to get centered and clear on what you really want to accomplish in the conversation. Then clarify with the other participants what the overall goal is.  Keep that front and center throughout the time together.

Avoid the need to be right– Ask yourself, do you want to make a point or do you want to make a difference?  Getting someone to agree with your point of view in a high stakes situation is not always possible. However, finding a middle ground and determining a plan of action for moving forward is– even when parties disagree. Be willing to listen without judging and look for ways to help others not convince others.

Avoid either/or solutions– Instead investigate solutions that use ‘and’. Look for ways to combine the wants and desires of all involved. Is there a way to accommodate both parties’ ideas?  Avoid rigid mindsets and be open to new and creative possibilities.

Following these guidelines can result in a positive experience for both educators and parents.


Lynne Watts brings excitement and energy into the room as a motivational and engaging speaker. She brings a focus on intentional living that sets the tone for participants to look within themselves to reflect and learn from. She has a relevant perspective to familiar topics. Her engagement with participants is sincere and authentic and, along with her friendly, relaxed manner enables participants to listen and learn easily. Her life experiences are meaningful to the audience and provide a candid look into self for how to make better self-choices and how to be a better team in the workplace.  ~D’Anna Liber DFACS Supervisor, Gwinnett County, Georgia


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