Tips for deescalating a parent’s anger

October 17, 2012

When people are angry they temporarily lose the ability to think clearly and rationally. How you respond can help to either escalate or deescalate their anger. A parent will be unable to work with you effectively until they have calmed down and are in control of their behaviour. 

REMEMBER: You should never try to work with a parent who is displaying violent aggressive behaviour. If a parent becomes violent or aggressive contact a senior staff member immediately and direct all children from the area. The police may need to be called. See below for more information.

The following may help you to de-escalate parent anger. 

  • Remain calm and in control of your own emotions.
  • Welcome parents with supportive, assertive statements such as the ‘happy/glad, sorry/sad, sure/certain’ approach. ‘I am glad you are here. I am sorry about what happened to (child’s first name) yesterday. I am sure we can sort things out.’
  • Acknowledge and deal with emotion first, before facts, details and content related to the issue. High emotion can escalate anger and restrict logical, rational thinking.
  • Be mindful of body language and other non-verbal communication. Do not point at the person with your fingers and hands, use slow open hand gestures, with hands by your sides or to the front of your body.
  • Admit mistakes. Apologise if you or other staff have made a mistake, but do not apologise for something you have not done. ‘I’m sorry that happened to (name) yesterday. It seems our procedure is at fault. We need to sit down and discuss this unfortunate situation …’ Work with the parent and other relevant parties to rectify, change or introduce a new procedure as quickly and smoothly as possible.
  • Do not accept abuse. Provide boundaries and have a rehearsed exit statement in place.

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