Types of Parents Tutors Work With

After over 20 years of working as a professional tutor, I have made some observations on the types of parents we work with in addition to working with their student.  I view the parents of my students as if they were "my bosses", because they need to be pleased with my services just as much as their student needs to be pleased with his/her progress. Thus, for every student, I have at least one to two supervisors watching the quality of my work (and sometimes even more, depending on ex-spouses or grandparents who are part of the schematic of payment and support).  It is beneficial to be aware of how best to work with different "types" of parents.
Surprising to me, I have noticed many times over the years that the parent who may submit many complaints or try to negotiate a different payment amount for my services is the parent who actually can afford to pay my fees and has time to bring his/her student to sessions with me.  This parent is the "affluent" parent, or parent with enough resources to pay and support his/her student and my services but rarely does.  I have not yet found a pattern as to why this may be; and it may only be local to my area of tutoring services.  The key that helps with this type of parent is to be reassuring that my services are actually helping, and if they are not, to listen and be open to any suggestions made.  Confidence in your skills, and maintaining a professional demeanor will help with this type of parent. 
In contrast, there is the "helpful" parent, who is a delight to know and establish a professional exchange.  In this case, I have been overwhelmed with little notes or emails thanking me for their student's progress, and grateful to receive work from school that may be used during our sessions.  Additionally, this parent is the type who actually inquires "how are you?" and waits to hear my reply.  I have had some parents bring me tea if I have a slight cold, little gifts if they happen to have seen when my birthday is, or even small tokens after traveling to some place I would likely not ever be able to visit.  This is the parent who tells other parents who have struggling students about my services and acts as a referral source.  Be very grateful for this type of parent and respond by being flexible with extra time or changing session days to show your appreciation. 
Somewhere between the "affluent" parent and the "helpful" parent is a wide variety of parent styles in response to a tutor. Sometimes I never meet a student's parent(s), but rather only email them and receive their checks for payment. They are invisible clients who drop their child off at the library or rely on their nanny to work with me.  Other parents meet me during the initial session and then never communicate after that.  They assume all is well and are too busy to reply to a call or email.  Still others are seemingly always present at every session, sitting at the kitchen or library table listening and watching everything I do.  If their child does even glances away for a moment, I've seen these "ever-present" parents tap their child's head signalling that he/she needs to pay closer attention.  
There are, unfortunately, parents who demonstrate an abusive attitude toward their student, yelling at the child while I am present.  It may be that the student did not complete a homework assignment I gave at the parent's request, or even just that the grades coming home from school are not all top scores.  This type of parent is volatile and the student reacts with fear toward him/her.  In this case, I have learned that some calm words requesting that the parent allow me to do my work and see if skills can increase may be best to control the situation. Other times, humor is my best approach. I have said such comments as, "Even I didn't receive all A grades, did you (meaning did the parent always receive all A grades)?" In the case of a parent hitting their child on the head if he/she was not paying attention to me (in the parent's opinion), I have commented, "Ouch, I think that one hurt; let's not hit heads, as that doesn't help the thinking process." If I can get the parent to laugh, then I've usually achieved less harshness regarding their student.
We meet up with different parent types as we gain more students and interact with more experience.  However, by keeping these parents' backgrounds and personal challenges in mind, it is helpful to be able to communicate your professional perspective and maintain a good workable relationship. 


Debra B.

Learning Specialist for Challenging Students

100+ hours
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