Parent Archetypes: A Teacher’s Survival Guide
What’s your relationship with the parents like?
No, this isn’t some foray into Freudian psychobabble. We’re talking about parent archetypes and behaviors that, for better or worse, influence your classroom environment.
Despite the most thoughtful intentions and strategies, cultivating symbiotic partnerships with our students’ guardians often becomes a painstaking task. Between changing requirements and multiplying responsibilities, teachers find themselves navigating unfamiliar if not downright treacherous terrain. And this rings especially true when you mix the politics of parent/teacher relationships into the equation.
That’s why educators need a survival guide that identifies parent archetypes and helps everyone work in tandem to achieve the best outcome for each individual child. But first, let’s take a look at the motley gallery of parental species.
Genus: Almae Parentis
The Elephant Parent nurtures and protects, prioritizing their child’s social and emotional health over academic or athletic success. Teachers can expect frequent communication regarding the child’s interactions with classmates. While sometimes demanding, this parent’s willingness to partner with teachers creates a cooperative relationship that sets a solid foundation for ongoing progress. Brace yourself for pushback if you must give negative feedback or reprimand their child for misbehavior.
Likes: The feeling that their child feels loved and respected.
Genus: Lenta Parentis
The Tiger Parent epitomizes the term “tough love.” This species relies on a hard-nosed parenting style that places academic and/or extracurricular achievement as their child’s top priority. Social-emotional development? Meaningful relationships with classmates? Learning how to rise from the ashes of failure? The Tiger Parent has zero time for such silly things. Teachers may find it difficult to explain priorities and the reality of strengths and weaknesses.
Likes: Straight-A report cards.
Dislikes: Second place ribbons.
Genus: Aliquet Parentis
Named for those who hover over their children, the Helicopter Parent pays magnifyingly close attention to their kids’ activities. From schoolwork to personal relationships, this species likes to stay involved in a most invasive manner. As shepherds of their child’s academic performance, this parent archetype may question teachers about the hour-by-hour classroom schedule. While often well-meaning in their micromanagement, the overseeing of all activities stunts students’ personal and professional growth.
Genus: Superbe Parentis
Also referred to as the Bulldozer or Snowplow, the Lawnmower Parent clears a path for their child, eliminating any instance of adversity or struggle. While this schematic sounds good in theory, obstacles are an integral part of a student’s academic growth and personal development. Their schemes may include completing a child’s homework or even cheating on college admission tests.
For a more detailed report, access our official Lawnmower Parent management guide.
Likes: Vicarious achievement.
Dislikes: Merited rewards.
Genus: Delphini Parentis
What is this, an equilibrium? We haven’t seen harmony yet, have we? Well, luckily, the Dolphin Parent embodies the kind of balance that Mr. Miyagi helped Daniel-San master. This parent helps their child succeed, but also allows them to fail, enabling students to learn in a way that transitions them seamlessly into adulthood. The more Dolphin Parents there are, the easier it becomes your job becomes.
Likes: Their kid’s teacher.
Dislikes: Willful ignorance.
Genus: Iucundus Parentis
The Jellyfish Parent doesn’t have much in the way of expectations. Not because they don’t like their kids. Just the opposite, in fact. The Jellyfish Parent often gives in to their child’s every whim, an overly permissive nature that translates to undermined teacher authority. In other words, if they can fling mashed potatoes at dinner, they’ll likely pelt someone with the school’s famous rectangular pizza come lunch time.
Likes: Veruca Salt.
Dislikes: Charlie Bucket.
Genus: Umbra Parentis
When NTI became a staple in 2020, teachers discovered a new archetype: the Shadow Parent. These caregivers remain behind their child at all times, but not in a supportive manner. Instead, this species eavesdrops on remote lessons and often stations themselves right behind their kids in the Zoom classroom. While related to the Helicopter Parent, this iteration is concerned less with their student’s performance and more with humdrum goings-on of their day.
Dislikes: In-person classrooms.
Forming Partnerships with Parents
Being an educator means forming healthy relationships with students that nurture their academic and social growth. But we don’t talk about the other side of that responsibility as much. And that’s because forming quality partnerships with parents is way more difficult than it needs to be.
Advancement Courses has your back with PD courses designed specifically to help you communicate your needs to parents and turn resistance into support:
- Partnering with Parents for Student Success: Get the skills and confidence you need to create meaningful, long-lasting partnerships with your students’ families, including how to involve them with supporting students at home, volunteering in the classroom, and taking part in important decision making.
- Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences: Learn how to host congenial, effective parent–teacher conferences that foster relationships with parents to build a network of supportive adults for your students. Create strategies for sharing student data, approaching difficult topics with parents, and involving students appropriately in your communications with their parents.
- Communicating with Parents of Students with Special Needs: Learn how to build and maintain positive relationships with parents of your students with special needs. Explore several communication strategies to help you partner with families for a transparent, stress-free school year.
- Creating Meaningful Relationships and Setting Boundaries with your Students: Learn how to build strong, appropriate relationships with your students to create a friendly, open classroom environment. Examine key concepts such as interpersonal relationships, authentic learning, inquiry-based teaching, your role as a facilitator and advisor, and more.
For more strategies on working with parents and building great relationships in your classroom, check out these professional development courses from Advancement Courses. We offer K–12 educators more than 280 online, self-paced professional development courses covering both foundational topics and emerging trends. All courses are offered for both graduate and continuing education credit for your salary advancement or recertification needs.