Writing an effective note to parents can decrease problem behaviors and build a partnership between home and school. A concise note without judgment or emotion helps draw the parents toward taking action without feeling like you're picking on their child. How well you craft the letter can make the difference between turning the parents into allies and leaving them feeling frustrated or defensive.
List Specific Behaviors
A letter to parents should describe the specific behaviors in a factual and objective way. Avoid general statements, such as, "Your child broke classroom rules," or, "Your child was disruptive at school." This doesn't tell the parents about the specific issue. Instead you might write, "Your child showed up late to class three out of the last five days. She didn't have her homework with her. In class, she talked to her peers and made disruptive comments at inappropriate times." With this information, the parents are better able to question the child and address you about the issue.
Explain Next Steps
The parents will want to know how the problem was dealt with and what you plan to do next. List any behavior management techniques already used. For example, "When the other students went to recess, I pulled your child aside to explain the behavior issues. Despite repeated warnings and redirection, she continued the behavior." Let the parent know how you plan to handle the issue going forward. You might implement a reward system, for example, or if the child continually forgets homework, you might implement a communication system with the parents to ensure they know about all assignments.
Call to Action
The goal of a letter to parents is to get them involved and keep the lines of communication open. Include a call to action in the letter that tells the parents what you want them to do. This shows that you want to work together rather than just complain about their child. The specific action you want the parents to take depends on your proposed plan to resolve the issue. Something as simple as calling or emailing to acknowledge the letter is one option. This ensures the parents actually see the letter and the student can't hide it. For a recurring issue, you may ask parents to call or set up a conference to work together on a plan. Scholastic suggests calling parents as a follow-up if they fail to respond.
Notes home often carry a negative connotation, which causes parents to feel discouraged or scared to see communication from school. Making a positive first connection with each family helps parents feel more comfortable talking to you. Even when a negative incident occurs, look for positives to share with parents. Finding those moments and making sure to comment on them can encourage the child to repeat good behaviors, such as cooperating in class and remembering assignments. The parents also may be more willing to work with you if they knows you're not just focusing on the negatives.
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