I said the F word in an IEP meeting.
Yep. I did it.
Am I proud? no.
Could I have handled things better? Yep.
But I understand why it happened. And my potty mouth tendencies are only partially to blame.
When we are sitting in meetings listening to all the things that our child is struggling with, all the things they can’t do, listening to how hard school is for them… it’s easy to feel emotional. When you are asking for things from the team and are met with push back or a whole lot of NO… It’s impossible not to feel frustrated. These are not just students in an IEP, these are our babies and we know them best. Too often I see parents feel the need to go full on MAMA BEAR, and I get it, but that doesn’t always mean progress and collaboration. Here are a few stay-calm phrases you can use to diffuse sticky situations and keep the cool.
- “What I heard you say is…. Am I understanding this correctly?
- “What does that look like in the classroom?”
- “Can you show me the policy on that?”
- “That’s not appropriate.”
- “Who can make that decision? Let’s schedule for them to join the next meeting.”
- “I understand that we are in a time crunch, so let’s table this until we have more time.”
- “I’m not comfortable making that decision today.”
- “Can you write that down?”
- “Just a suggestion, but I’m not in the classroom, so how can we make this work?”
- “At home I’ve noticed…”
- “Can you show me the data to support than change?”
- “It feels like we aren’t all on the same page. Let’s take a break for a few minutes to refocus our energy on the student.”
- “I appreciate your input; here’s how I am interpreting this behavior.”
- “What is working right now? How can we build on that?
- “How can we compromise?”
- “Can you clarify…”
- “How can I support the team from home…”
- “I understand your perspective, what is our priority right now?’
- “What is the timeline for that?”
- “What is the criteria for that change?”
Parent’s keep in mind that you are human, this is your child and it is OK to bring emotion to the table. However, we want to stay away from the blame game (even if the school is wrong, you can address that once you have a plan.). Prioritize your child’s needs and determine where you are willing to compromise or what is a deal breaker. If you are asking for something, be prepared to show the data to support your request. Behavior reports, daily sheets, homework, documented observation or email can all serve as data. If the school is proposing a change that you don’t agree with, ask for the data to show the need for that change. Do not feel bullied into making a decision on the spot, you have 10 days to agree or disagree in writing.
Pick a few of these phrases and write them in your notes as sentence starters so that in the moment you have some options to choose from and help maintain the calm. Our goal is to maintain positive and collaborative relationships so our children make substantial progress. You can’t control everything, but you can control your response when things get tough.