Education can be a real battleground for parents, particularly if your child has a diagnosis or disability.
It can be a battle to find the right educational setting for your child, let alone getting your child’s needs met. It can feel like you’re in the firing line when things go wrong and it can be daunting to liaise with school personnel, particularly in meetings where you feel outnumbered and outflanked.
However, it is possible to create a better relationship with your child’s school, without bringing in the entire army. The key is being strategic in managing your relationship and recognising that relationship management is the first step in effective advocacy.
What is Relationship Management?
Relationship management is about developing, maintaining and improving relationships to achieve a goal. You might think this only belongs in the corporate world, but that’s not the case. The principles of relationship management can be used in all areas of life, to help you achieve positive outcomes at work, in your personal relationships and with your child’s school.
It’s possible to create a positive relationship with your child’s school, using the principles of relationship management – even if you’ve had a rocky start to the relationship. It all comes down to being strategic, communicating effectively, understanding the leverage you hold, being respectful and seeking to build a genuine partnership to better support your child.
5 Ways You Can Use Relationship Management Principles to Establish a Positive Relationship With School
Strategy – be strategic in your interactions with your child’s school. When requesting support, try to understand the motives and position of the school so you can anticipate their response and work through obstacles. Be prepared for each meeting – set objectives and measures of success so you keep on track.
Communication – introduce yourself to all stakeholders, from the principal right through to volunteers. Take the time to truly listen to the school and be respectful in your response, even if you don’t agree with their position. When raising issues, don’t just focus on the problem – suggest a solution to get a positive resolution.
Leverage – understand your own value – you know your child best and the school should value your knowledge. If an outcome doesn’t go your way, be creative and think of alternate ways to achieve a positive result. When making requests, look beyond your child and highlight the potential benefits to the entire school.
Respect – always follow up and follow through to create goodwill and trust. Get everything in writing so you can respectfully raise issues when they arise. Schedule time and be available for meetings and events. Try to put your emotions to one side so you can argue your case in a logical and courteous way.
Invest – get involved and be visible at the school. Volunteer in some way, initiate regular contact with your child’s teacher, respond to requests for information and do what you can to be a part of the whole school community. Invest in the relationship to show the school that you care and that you are serious about building a real relationship.
It takes time and energy to build a positive partnership with your child’s school. However, having a strong relationship in place will make it easier to deal with issues and challenges as they arise and lead to more positive outcomes for your child and the school as a whole.
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