Working with the Parents of Students – 6 Maintaining the Relationship

If you have successfully established a good working relationship with the parents of your students, you must now turn your attention to maintaining that relationship. It is critical that you continue to apply the same communication skills discussed earlier in this chapter. If parents feel they can easily approach you with their questions and concerns regarding their child’s training, and you will listen and respond with understanding and respect, you have made a major step in maintaining that relationship.

Parents have a variety of options when they are dissatisfied, or concerned about their child’s training. Two obvious ones are that they can either bring these issues to your attention and allow you to respond, or they can pull the child out of your school. If the parents do not feel that they have a relationship with you which allows them to bring concerns to your attention, their most immediate response may be to terminate their relationship with the school. It is thus to everyone’s advantage that you keep the lines of communication open with the parents of your students.

Working with the Parents of Students – 5 Responding to Expectations Related to Problem Behaviors

Some parents enroll their children in martial arts training because they want help. The child may have a problem managing his/her behavior when angry. Other concerns which parents express regarding their child are low grades in school, problems focusing his/her attention, or lack of appropriate respect for authority figures. Regardless of the problem, there may be a certain expectation that you, as his/her instructor in the martial arts, will play a major role in “the cure.” These expectations may be supported by what parents see advertised by various martial arts schools.

Such expectations by parents must be appropriately managed. These parents need to know that martial arts training is not martial arts therapy. Also, your time with, and influence over the child is limited. Although training in the martial arts can be an excellent adjunct to other efforts which are being made to help the child, promising that martial arts training alone can solve personal and academic problems is risky.

When talking with parents, explain to them the role which training in the martial arts can play in helping the child with specific problem behaviors. Show an interest in how martial arts training will be used in coordination with other efforts to assist the child. Questions and conversation about the ways in which this problem behavior is being addressed at home, school and other areas allow you to understand their current efforts and needs. Do not allow the parents to expect that training at your school alone will be the miracle cure to all that ails the child. This is an expectation which can result in disappointment for all concerned, and a strained relationship between instructors and parents.

Working with the Parents of Students – 2 Establishing the Relationship

The first time the parents and child come to the school to talk with you, or to watch a class, is when the relationship begins to take shape. It is the first impression which they form of you as a potentially important person in the life of that child. If you do not connect with the parents and child in a meaningful way at that time, it is unlikely that the child will enroll to train at your school. They must feel confident in your abilities as a martial artist and instructor, and see you as a person who can understand and communicate with children and parents.

The following section deals with responding to parents’ questions and concerns, gathering information, and parents’ expectations related to their child’s problem behaviors. Communication skills which are discussed here are also relevant to maintaining the relationship with parents, which is discussed in the next section. Also, several examples of questions which you might ask are given for illustration. Although the suggested questions often refer to the child as “your son/daughter,” it is always best to use the child’s name when talking with parents.

Working with the Parents of Students – 1 Expectations

By Don Korzekwa, Ph.D.

It’s 20 minutes after the last class for the day. You’re still talking with the mother of one of your ten-year-old students. She wants him to participate in the next belt-promotion examination. You attempt to explain that he’s not ready quite yet. You think to yourself, “Doesn’t she understand? I’m the expert here. I’m the one in charge of belt promotions.” She thinks to herself, “Doesn’t he understand? I know my son. I’m the one in charge of whether he stays at this school.”

As an instructor at a martial arts school, you recognize that working with the parents of your young students is a critical element in your success. Parents have an investment in their children’s well-being at several levels, including physical and emotional aspects. Because of this investment, it is important to consider that your relationship with the child as instructor to student, also involves a working relationship with the parents.

Parents have certain expectations about your work with their child as a student at your school. They see their child as an individual with unique needs and characteristics, and expect that you will do the same. The manner in which you deal with the expectations of parents regarding their child’s training at your school will have an impact on the motivation of the parents to keep their kids at your school.

Parents can also offer the advantage of years of knowing and understanding their child in a variety of situations. They have a first-hand perspective on what interests and motivates their child. They may also alert you to any changes, problems or sensitivities of the child which can have an impact on his/her training in the martial arts. The more proactive you are in gathering this information, the better equipped you will be to make the training experience a good one for everyone from the outset.

It is also worth consideration that you and the parents can be allies in working with the child. Training directed toward the goals of increased self-discipline, self-confidence, and others can either be supported or ignored by parents when the child in not in class. The extent to which you have a solid working relationship with parents can make a difference in the degree of success which is achieved in guiding the child toward these goals. If you and the parents are communicating about the child’s progress, the consistency and continuity in your combined efforts are more likely to produce the desired results. If parents see you as a valuable ally in working with their child, they have added incentive in maintaining your relationship.

The bottom line is that it is important and advantageous for you to have a good working relationship with the parents of your young students. This can, however, be a difficult task. You may have many students, including children, in your school. The time which you have available to speak with parents is very limited. You may find that you have no difficulty in communicating with some parents, and a great deal of difficulty with others. Regardless of the challenges, it is up to you, as an instructor, to establish and maintain a good working relationship with the parents of your young students.

The Three Foot Rule

Once you’ve set an appointment for an intro, its important that you confirm the appointment 24-hours in advance.

Confirming appointments greatly increases the likelihood of your potential students showing up for their classes prepared for action. In your phone call you mention that you’ll be following up with a courtesy call (either the day of their lesson or the day before).

The call isn’t to ask them if “they’re still going to make it,” or some other negative statement, but to make sure they know exactly where the school is located. It’s meant to be a friendly reminder.

And, if there’s time, the rapport-building process should be continued during the confirmation, regardless whether a secretary or the instructor makes the call. The information sheet for a scheduled introductory should have the essential information for the caller, such as: Parent(s) name, child’s name, age and any other notes taken during the course of the call (For example: “Johnny’s been getting bullied at school.”).

Adding Friends and Family

During the initial phone call and then again on the confirmation call, it’s a good practice to ask a prospective student if they would like to invite friends or family members to participate along with them in their first lessons.

The Greeting

Anyone coming through the front door of your school should, at the very least, be acknowledged before they can take their fourth step into your reception area. No matter how many introductory lessons you might schedule in a single evening, it is important to treat each lesson as if it were your only one of the night, or the month, or the year.

You should know their name(s), and so should your entire staff. It’s best to have a welcoming board at your front desk where the names of your next lessons are written for all to see. They’re VIP’s, and having a front desk person say, “Hi, are you the next intro?” is a universe away from, “Good evening Mr. & Mrs. Johnson…and you must be Johnny? We’ve been looking forward to teaching you!”

The Three-Foot Rule

Make sure train your staff to greet everyone within the first three steps into the school and to come out from behind the counter to greet intros and their families.

It’s also during the greeting that the potential student fills out a school application/questionnaire and release form.

In a perfect world, your front desk person is a master of entertaining everyone who walks through the doors — incoming and outgoing students, parents and potential students. And anyone in your school who comes in contact with an instructor or other staff member should get the same kind of consistent courtesy and goodwill.