As a teacher and parent, I've been on both sides of the desk for conferences. Some have been more successful than others, and I've come to the conclusion that it's the preparation beforehand that makes the difference.
Even though we know that the parent plays such an important role in the education of their children, it is very difficult to look a parent in the eye and say, "You are the reason your child is having such difficulty in school."
During parent teacher conferences, is it more important to discuss a child's academic development or their social/emotional well-being? This often asked question can be answered simply by stating that both are critical aspects to your child's school life.
It doesn't really take a letter to tell kids they are overweight. They know this, and so do their parents. If the goal is trying to help families make real changes, a letter home stating a child's BMI is not really going to do anything.
Toddler soccer games. Though, this could make for a hilarious drinking game opportunity. Every time a kid watches a ball roll right past him because he's climbing on the goalie net their parent has to drink.
In my 20 years of working with schools, I have discovered several steps that school officials can take to deescalate potential confrontations when parents come in breathing fire. I have seen patterns of communication that are troubling, but not too hard to fix.
At my friend's parent-teacher meeting to discuss her eighth-grade son, the teacher made a wacky recommendation: my friend should consider bribery to motivate him to work harder in school. I'm not kidding.