When talking about the challenges of working with youth, it amazes me how often it is not the youth or their problems that are most often brought up, it is their parents. It can be tough trying to work with youth in any context when there is an overbearing parent. Yet, despite frustrations, there is a lot you can learn from these parents.
- When talking with parents that can be overbearing I try to get to the root of the complaints or the situation. For instance, if a parent is talking about all the risks, liabilities and issues that can come up with youth ministry I get a sense that safety is a big value for them. I then say something like “I get the sense that the safety of the youth is a big deal for you, I hope you know we don’t take safety lightly.” I then can show them some of the areas and procedures that demonstrate that and inquire about what solutions they could think of. If you don’t have some of those procedures and systems in place, it is a legitimate ask for you as a leader to have.
- For me, I can easily get frustrated when people come to me laying out all the wrongs and problems of the group without balancing it out with what is working. I often take these conversations and navigate them into a place that is solution focused, and challenge those people giving criticisms to offer solutions too. Then, I empower them to think through how to implement their solutions and go for it.
- Often, overbearing parents have a heart of gold. They want what is best for you, their kids, and the group. Legitimize their voice in the process and don’t shut them out because you feel annoyed in the moment. What these parents have to say is important, they see things differently than you do and by finding solutions you can help other parents of the group build more trust with the programs.
- There is a no one more influential in a kids life than their parents. Don’t forget that. Look for ways to partners together to improve systems, safety and remove barriers in the programs you run.
- Sometimes, those overbearing parents become volunteer leaders simply because they don’t want to leave their child. Talk to them about a boundary and inquire what they are going through as a parent. Remember, we aren’t just working for the betterment of youth, but for the families as a whole.
Building rapport with parents in essential to running any youth program. Learn how to communicate and speak to the issues and priorities that they put value too. You will have a better group for it.