We know the warning signs to look for on dates. We know the alarm bells to listen for during an interview. Teachers, of course, have their own identity system of red flags when it comes to parents and families. These red flags are code for “proceed with caution.” Continue to be kind, professional, and warm. But keep emails short. Document extensively. Loop in an administrator if things get hairy.

Does a red flag mean you’ll never be able to connect with that family? Of course not. It just means it may take some serious emotional and communication muscle to build trust. (But in the meantime, like we said: Proceed with caution.)


Reddit teachers weighed in with phrases or behaviors that triggered an instant “uh-oh” reaction to parents’ comments. Here are their biggest red flags:

“They’re your problem during school hours.”

“My child would never say/do that.”

“My child does not lie to me.”

“My kid is misbehaving because they’re bored.”

“We don’t use that language at home.”

The student is pulled out for a lot of vacations and/or family events.

“I tried searching for you but I couldn’t find you on any social media.”

“He doesn’t have time to do the work for your class. Basketball keeps him so busy!”

“You know how it is … he’s just a boy. Boys will be boys!

“Your class is just journalism; it doesn’t even matter.”

“Yup. Sounds like him.”

Signing emails as “CEO” of his own business. Then meeting with me, he starts every sentence with “As a CEO …”

“We aren’t really a reading house.”

A 3rd grader kicked me in the shin and his mom’s first reaction was to ask what I did to provoke the behavior.

When the father of the kid silenced the mother during conferences.

If they ever refer to themselves as “mama bear.”

“We don’t do consequences at home.”

Here’s one that I’ve heard is a red flag for teachers but didn’t make the list:

“I’m a teacher too/used to be a teacher, so …”

Unless that sentence ends with “So here is a thank-you card with a cash gift” or “So let us know if you need anything!” teacher-parents need to proceed with caution too 😉

What’s the biggest red flag for you as a teacher? Let us know in the comments.

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