Not a reverse parenting conversation, but a startup conversation

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

Theoretical basis

In her PhD research, Mariëtte Lusse shows that individual contact moments are more likely to create a relationship of trust between mentor and parent (Lusse, 2009). At an information evening at the beginning of the year, where parents are invited to the classroom, such a relationship of trust will therefore not develop so easily.

According to the well-known professor Joyce Epstein, the spheres of influence in the home and school overlap more, whose collaboration stems from a relationship of trust. Epstein talks about the need for ‘school-like families’ and ‘family-like schools’. This mutual involvement is the basis of parental involvement (Epstein 2009).

A third reason for the initial conversation is Deci and Ryan’s Theory of Self-Determination. Parents also need relationships at school, for example with the group teacher or with the classmates’ parents. They want to be competent educators so that their child is well. And they want their autonomy to be recognized by the school so that they can also help determine the content of a conversation e.g.

If we zoom in further on the relationship between parents and their child, we see something special that we can understand through Nagy’s loyalty theory. A student must relate to two loyalties, namely the loyalty he has to and from his parents, and to and from his teacher. The student’s loyalty to and from his parents is called ‘existential loyalty’, an unconditional bond through birth that lasts forever, therefore also called ‘vertical loyalty’. A loyalty to be based on a blood bond, with mutual rights and duties and therefore expectations between parents and children, a bond that is even stronger than a physical and geographical separation. Any other relationship that is not based on birth is an ‘acquired loyalty’, also referred to as ‘horizontal loyalty’ (Calle, 2013). Children are loyal to their parents in advance, but a teacher must acquire the loyalty of his students and parents. The expectation that a teacher can enjoy unconditional trust from the parents in advance is not a matter of course in this light.

While Lusse and Epstein seem to substantiate the need for an individual initial conversation, Deci and Ryan’s Theory of Self-Determination and Nagy’s Loyalty Theory give us clues as to the content and form of an initial conversation.


A kick-off meeting is an open discussion without a fixed agenda, always in the student’s presence. Everything that is needed can pass in the initial conversation. Parents do not tell the real story until there is a relationship. Therefore, initial conversations should not primarily be aimed at expressing mutual expectations or allowing parents to say something about their child (although of course it is fine if this is discussed spontaneously). They should always focus on the relationship, face each other (again) and continue to work on mutual trust. No ‘reverse parent talks’, where the school actually still sets the agenda (parents have to tell it now), no lists that parents have to fill out in advance, but a person-to-person conversation. And always with the student there, even if it’s a small child playing somewhere else in the living room. If you are focused on conveying or receiving information, the presence of a preschooler can be disruptive. If you want to build and maintain the relationship, an initial conversation is unthinkable without a small child. It gives them more confidence. As a small child once said beautifully: ‘Mom and Dad have become friends with the Miss.’


What is the initial conversation about? It also depends on the parents (their autonomy). At one school, they said, ‘We only have one starting question:’ How was your vacation? ‘ The rest comes by itself ‘. For example, it is not a problem at all if a father tells most of the conversation about his travels as a truck driver. If this benefits the trust relationship, it is in his child’s best interest. In addition, this father can in this way feel competent with his important work. And it also benefits the relationship with the school. In an evaluation of newcomer start-ups, a number of parents said they liked it so much that the teacher talked something about herself: “This made her a person for me that I like to leave my child to, who understands my child. ”

On the other hand, we must not be too limited either. If the situation gives rise to it, or a question spontaneously arises from parents, such as: ‘Girls our noses in the same direction?’ or ‘Is there any new development?’ then you do not need to cut it off. But focus on the relationship, and if information comes up, deal with it naturally.

It is primarily about the relationship and therefore it is also important to have an initial conversation with the parents of students you already had in class last school year. The word ‘introductory meeting’ is therefore not very useful, because it presupposes that an introductory meeting is always about getting to know each other and is therefore only intended for parents you do not yet know.


Now that it is clear what the introductory meeting is about, it is also 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 a student first, so that you as a teacher can share your findings and observations with parents.

Get off to a great start with all parents!

Leave a Comment