Not a reverse conversation between parents but the start of a conversation

It is important to get the new school year off to a good start with parents. Many schools are now accustomed to the so-called initial meeting with parents. Sometimes with the student there, often without him. But how do you conduct an initial conversation? And when is it effective? After a theoretical exploration, a number of practical tips for shaping the initial meeting.

Theoretical rule

In her PhD research, Mariette Luce showed that moments of one-on-one contact are more likely to create a trusting relationship between mentor and parent (Lusse, 2009). On an informational evening at the beginning of the year where parents are invited to class, this relationship of trust will not develop easily.

According to well-known professor Joyce Epstein, if cooperation arises from a relationship of trust, the spheres of influence at home and at school overlap even more. Epstein talks about the need for “school-like families” and “family-like schools”. This mutual involvement is the basis of parental involvement (Epstein 2009).

The third clue to starting the conversation is Desi and Ryan’s self-determination theory. Parents also need relationships at school, for example with the group teacher or with the parents of their classmates. They want to be competent teachers so that their child is healthy. And they want the school to recognize their independence, so that they can also help determine the content of the conversation, for example.

If we extend the scope of the parent-child relationship, we see something special that we can understand through Nagy’s loyalty theory. The student has to deal with two loyalties, namely loyalty to and to his parents, and loyalty to and to his teacher. A disciple’s loyalty to and to his parents is called “existential loyalty”, an unconditional bond through birth that lasts forever, thus also called “vertical loyalty”. Loyalty to being based on a bond of blood, with reciprocal rights and duties and thus expectations between parents and children, is a stronger bond than physical and geographical separation. Any other relationship, not based on birth, is “earned loyalty”, also referred to as “horizontal loyalty” (Calle, 2013). Children are loyal to their parents in advance, but the teacher must earn the loyalty of his students and parents. Expecting a teacher to enjoy unconditional parental trust in advance is not intuitive in light of this.

While Lusse and Epstein seem to support the need to initiate a one-on-one conversation, Deci and Ryan’s theory of self-determination and Nagy’s loyalty theory give us clues about the content and form of starting a conversation.


The inaugural meeting is an open discussion without a fixed agenda, always in the presence of the student. All that is necessary can pass into the initial conversation. Parents don’t tell the real story until there is a relationship. Therefore, initial conversations should not be aimed primarily at expressing mutual expectations or allowing parents to tell something about their child (although, of course, it is a good idea to discuss this spontaneously). They should always focus on the relationship, look each other in the eye (again) and keep working on mutual trust. There are no “parent-to-parent reverse conversations”, with the school still setting the agenda (the parent now has to tell them this), no lists that parents have to fill out in advance, just a person-to-person conversation. And always with the student there, even if it’s a young child playing elsewhere in the room. If you are focused on imparting or receiving information, having a preschooler can be annoying. If you’re looking to build and maintain a relationship, an initial conversation is unimaginable without a toddler. This gives them more confidence. As a little boy once said so beautifully: “My father and mother became friends with a beauty queen.”


What is the topic of the initial conversation? This also depends on the parents (their independence). At one school they said, “We only have one question at first: ‘How was your vacation?'” The rest will come naturally. For example, there is absolutely no problem if the father tells most of the conversation about his trips as a truck driver. If it benefits the trust relationship, it is in the best interests of his child. Additionally, this way this father can feel competent in His job is important. This also benefits the relationship with the school. In an assessment of the newly entered beginning conversations, a number of parents said they liked it so much that the teacher said something about herself: “This has made her a person to me and I am the happiest of my child who understands my child.”

On the other hand, we should not be too restrictive. If the situation gives reason to do this, or a question automatically arises from the parents, such as: “Do our noses point in the same direction?” or “Are there any new developments?” Then you don’t have to cut it. But focus on the relationship and if information comes up, treat it as normal.

It is mainly about relationship which is why it is also important to have an initial conversation with the parents of students you have already in class last year. So the word “introductory meeting” is not very useful, because it assumes that the initial meeting is always about getting to know each other, and thus is only for parents you don’t know yet.


Now that it is clear why the initial meeting is being held, it will also be clear that these meetings should take place as soon as possible after the summer, preferably in the first two weeks of the new school year. Because it is not about observing the student first, that you as a teacher can share your results and feedback with parents.

We wish you a good start with every parent!

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