Parental Engagement for Teachers

 What are the four types pf parenting?

  1. Authoritarian Parenting 
    In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents. Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment. Authoritarian parents fail to explain the reasoning behind these rules. If asked to explain, the parent might simply reply, "Because I said so." These parents have high demands, but are not responsive to their children. According to Baumrind, these parents "are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation" (1991).
  2. Authoritative Parenting
    Like authoritarian parents, those with an authoritative parenting style establish rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow. However, this parenting style is much more democratic. Authoritative parents are responsive to their children and willing to listen to questions. When children fail to meet the expectations, these parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. Baumrind suggests that these parents "monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative" (1991). 
  3. Permissive Parenting 
    Permissive parents, sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, have very few demands to make of their children. These parents rarely discipline their children because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control. According to Baumrind, permissive parents "are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation" (1991). Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, often taking on the status of a friend more than that of a parent.
  4. Uninvoloved Parenting
    An uninvolved parenting style is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child's basic needs, they are generally detached from their child's life. In extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children.
                                                          Test your parenting style, click here

What do parents want from teachers?

  • For teachers to recognize that they know and understand their children
  • To value and respect contributions and suggestions of parents
  • For educators to use more humane manner when discussing their children
  • To listen more
  • To interact honestly
  • To treat individuals with dignity and respect

Barriers to Parental Involvement

According to Family Support America there are common barriers associated with increasing parental involvement in schools and community programs. The four common barriers are:  

    • Attitudes – Staff do not feel comfortable talking about issues in front of families. Families don’t trust staff. Staff think families are too overwhelmed to participate. Staff aren’t willing to accept families as equal partners. Families think they have nothing to contribute. Staff think that families will violate client confidentiality.

    • Logistics – Schools and programs can’t pay for childcare. Transportation is unavailable for families to get to meetings. Meetings are held only during working hours – or at times inconvenient for parents. Families aren’t reimbursed for the time they take off of work to attend meetings.

    • System barriers – No systems are in place for paying parent leaders for their time and contributions. Staff time can only be paid during regular working hours. Lack of resources available for supporting parent and family involvement.

    • Lack of skills – Families have never participated in (school-type) meetings/committees. Families are unaware of applicable procedures and policies. Staff aren’t ready to work with families in new ways. Lack of information about the role of families and staff.

There is growing recognition that support is needed to address challenges and barriers associated with increasing parental involvement in schools. The National Center for School Engagement offers local schools and districts information and materials to expand parent and family engagement. School districts are encouraged to think of parental involvement in broader terms. There are models that can help schools reshape how they look at parent and family involvement such as, Epstein’s Framework of Parent Involvement. It is based on six types of parent involvement identified by Joyce Epstein from the Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships.

Overcoming Barriers

What Are the Most Common Barriers Sited by Parents?

    Based on a survey conducted by the National PTA in January 1992

  • Lack of Time
  • Feeling They Have Nothing to Contribute
  • Not Understanding the System
  • Lack of Child Care
  • Language and Cultural Differences
  • Feeling Intimidated
  • Lack of Transportation
  • Scheduling Conflicts/Difficulties
  • Not Feeling Welcome

Time Barrier: It's hard for parents to find enough time to volunteer in their children's school(s), attend PTA meetings, and join decision-making committees. PTA and school functions are often rigidly scheduled at inconvenient times. Solution: Be flexible in scheduling meetings and events. Make an occasional meeting a potluck to meet working parents' needs. Go to the parents-have meetings at community centers, apartment buildings and places of worship. Put brochures and announcements at grocery stores, libraries, and recreational facilities. Put PTA on the agenda of groups to which professional and civic parents belong. Ask respected community leaders to help PTA boost involvement. Ask employers about bringing PTA to the workplace.

Not Valued Barrier: Some parents aren't sure they have anything of value to contribute. They feel intimidated by principals, teachers and PTA leaders. These parents may have had unpleasant experiences when they were in school, or they may have limited education. Solution: Extend a personal welcome to parents who appear to be withdrawn or uncomfortable. Learn about their interests and abilities. Actively seek opportunities for hesitant parents to use their experience and talents for the benefit of the school. Everyone has something to offer.

Don't Know How to Contribute Barrier: Some parents feel they have talents but they don't know how to contribute them to the school or the PTA.  Solution: Don't wait for parents to offer to help. Conduct a talent survey. You can then figure out ways to use the many talents parents possess.

Not Understanding the System Barrier: Many parents don't understand the system or how to be involved at their children's school. Solution: Help write a parent's handbook covering rules, procedures, where to find answers to typical questions. Be sure to include phone numbers of people who can answer questions. If possible, include pictures of staff and PTA officers and contacts.

Child Care Barrier: Childcare may not be provided at PTA and school functions. At the same time, parents may be discouraged from bringing their children to events. Solution: Find an available room in the school for childcare. Ask PTA members to volunteer to baby-sit on a rotating basis. Hire students in family life class to care for children at after-school or evening meetings. Research and understand your PTA's liability. Provide safe, quality childcare.

Language Barrier: Parents for whom English is a second language may not understand newsletters and fliers or speakers at meetings.  Solution: Have printed materials translated-English on one side, another language on the other. Ask the school to assist in providing an interpreter at workshops and meetings.

Cultural Differences Barrier: People talk about common courtesy, but courtesy is not common; it is culturally determined. American manners can embarrass or offend parents from different cultures. Meetings can conflict with religious observances. Solution: Work to increase everyone's awareness of and sensitivity to all cultures represented in your school. Learn about and be sensitive to other cultures' values, attitudes, manners and views of the school community. Know the religious holidays and observances of all groups in your school.

Transportation Barrier: Lack of transportation or access to parking at the school during school hours keeps parents from visiting with the teachers and volunteering in the classroom or on committees. Solution: Work with the school to mark a block of spaces in the parking lot (where appropriate) "for visitors only." If parents live far from school, as when there is cross-town busing, go and visit parents. Or call them. Hold small group meetings in places that parents can easily get to, including homes. Bus parents to special evening events following regular school routes.

Not Welcomed Barrier: Parents may feel they are not welcome in the school. Many parents have met a principal or teacher who sends the message, "Parents need not interfere." Solution: Urge in-service training in parent involvement for all school staff. Make sure that parents are welcome to drop in at school during the day. Donate "Welcome to our school" buttons for all staff. Post welcome signs in all languages spoken at the school.

Parents in Need Barrier: Many parents without adequate resources are simply overwhelmed. They barely have energy to meet their personal needs, much less volunteer at the school. Solution: Provide information to help parents secure the services they need (food stamps, job skills training, etc.). Develop a directory of services such as social service agencies, medical clinics, food pantries, substance abuse counseling, legal services, literacy courses and tutoring in English as a second language (ESL). After parents' personal needs are met, you can begin to help them address the educational needs of their children.

Low Literacy Level Barrier: Parents who cannot read will not understand the newsletters and brochures that are sent home.  Solution: Call on the telephone. If possible, work with the school to provide video messages. Contact your library to find literacy groups or tutors of English as a second language. Offer such programs at the school.

Snobbery Barrier: Many people still view the PTA as an established clique that excludes minorities and newcomers. This image of PTA is a turn-off to new parents and diverse groups in your school community. Solution: Actively seek new members that are representative of the student body. Look for appropriate ways to reach out and make your PTA more inclusive.

Jargon Barrier: Many parents feel put down and confused when school staff and PTA officers use expressions they don't understand. Solution: Urge all school staff to be simple and direct in language. Be careful and make sure that you chose words that everyone will understand.

Boring Meetings Barrier: No one likes to take valuable time to come to PTA meetings that are dull or that don't meet his or her needs as a member. Solution: Make sure there is a purpose for your meeting and that it meets the needs of members. Ask members to identify programs they would like to have. Shorten the business part of your meetings to no more than 10 minutes. Get right to the speaker or workshop. Make meetings more inviting by holding them at someone's home, a community center or other relaxed place.


Teachers Connecting With Parents

  • At the beginning of the year this letter is your first chance to connect with parents and you will want to make sure that the letter contains information that reassures parents that you are qualified, motivated and organized

Learn about your students from their parents

  • Use a parent survey or parent letter.  Some things to remember:  be sure to ask specific questions to help guide parent input and request parent input the first week of school.

Conduct a Back-to-School night

  • Prepare your classroom and be organized.  Have handouts, a syllabus, a sign in sheet, copies of the standards and curriculum you are teaching and anything else you deem necessary.  Invite teachers to contact you regarding any matter

Request Parent Suggestions

  • Document classroom procedures and expectations.  Ideally, after the first two weeks of school it is a good idea to send home a letter explaining classroom procedures, including homework, grading, and classroom management policies.  You might want to require a signature so that you know a parent has read the information.  Also, survey the parents at the end of a unit or quarter.

Conducting Parent Teacher Conferences

  • Prepare for the conferences by having documentation, reflections, strengths and areas of improvement and sample’s of student work.  When meeting the parent it is important to present yourself in a professional manner.  You might also want to record any important details during the conference

Thanking Parents

  • Take the time to thank parents for the tough job they do, thank them for attending back to school night, thank them for volunteering and or following parent contacts with thank you notes.

Contact parents using email

  • Give parents the option of contacting you through email.  Some things to remember:  do not use slang or shortcuts when sending emails, save all correspondence and always use spell check and proofread before sending the email.

Phoning Home

  • Call home for a job well done and call home to avoid a problem.

Invite Parents to Visit

  • Send open invitations, invite parents to volunteer in the class and invite parents for class presentations

Teachers Communicating with Parents


  1. Knowing how to communicate with parents allows the teacher to plan for involvement and communication to use within the classroom. The teacher must show the parents that they are needed to become supporters of school programs.
  2. Methods: (Croft, p. 13-15)
  • Show appreciation and recognition for contributions of time and services to encourage future parental involvement
  • Make announcements of volunteer needs in advance to allow for parents to schedule around certain events.
  • Offer a wide variety of opportunities for parents to be involved in the classroom, even if they are not able to participate in classroom activities (such as making phone calls, addressing letters, plan field trips, etc.)
  • Contact parents to discuss positive and negative attributes about their children, either by a phone call or by sending a note home with a student.

Reaching Hard-to-Reach Parents


  1. Certain parent circumstances don't allow interaction with the teacher and classroom, due to job duties, family obligations, etc.
  2. Strategies to reach the hard to reach families:
  • Meet Parents on their Turf
        1. establish trust and ongoing relationship with parents
  • Make Schools Parent Friendly
        1. create atmosphere that increases parent comfort level
        2. don't talk down to parents or use educational jargon
  • Bridge the Language Gap
        1. software programs that record phone messages in different languages, hire   support staff to translate conversations or writing communicated between parents and schools
  • Involve Parents in Decision Making
        1. create committees parents can be a part of to allow open communication and exchange of ideas
  • Help Parents Help Their Children
        1. phone contact, parent groups, newsletter communication on a regular basis.