View Full Version : FAHA: Overbearing parents

Ken Leung
03-22-2004, 01:53 AM
Can robotics teams be ran successfully with a complete democratic decision making process? That is up to debate. I used to hate it when the team leader of my old team reject my ideas even though I thought they were the best thing ever. But as I gained more experience in the team, I started to understand those decision made by the team leader. Could I have understood those decision when I didn't know any better? Probably not. But I probably would've felt better if someone explained the decision to me, which is what happened.

Let listen to this FIRST-a-holic and his/her problem with his/her team's decision making process.

this is suspost to be a club, where everyones vote on stuff should matter. but on our team, we have a problem. Our parent advisor have seemed to take over our program, and do whatever they please with it. i understand that tehy work hard, but they make desion with out the team, and when we have a team vote, and they disagree with what anyone says they become angry and stubborn and dont listen to anyone.

these parent and there son, seem not to care abotu anyof the students nor the team. they just want to see theyr son susceed. if any of the students tell any of the other students to try and find something to do at the meetings(instead of sitting there not doing anythign) these parents start to yell and screem and threatn to kick you off the team.

/rant (excuse my spelling and grammer)

if anyone know how we can deal with these parents, please help

Tom Bottiglieri
03-22-2004, 06:09 AM
this is a very tough problem to deal with. I may or may not know what you are going though.. Just try to agree with them as much as you can and try to be nice. Then maybe you will get on their good side and be able to have a little more power when it comes to decision making

Gabe Salas Jr.
03-22-2004, 10:48 AM
Wow! :ahh:

Seems like you guys are in a difficult position. The best policy is honesty. I would have the entire team, hold a meeting with these parents, to fully express how you guys feel about the way they are "running" the team. Use constructive criticism in order to reach a better understand of each other's feelings, and how to help them make better decisions for the team. If it all goes SNAFU, then mention that if they are not willing to cooperate and work together, the team will look for a new mentor, or head coordinator. Hopefully this will help you.

"When everybody works together, we all win."
(I forgot who said this, I wish I could give him/her credit)

03-22-2004, 11:31 AM
As a team co-ordinator I would want to know if students or mentors on our team felt this way. I know there are times when one sub-group or another has a lull, less work than the other groups. It is during that time that a students true nature is shown. Some students will go and watch other groups, some will ask "what can I do?", others will sit around and do nothing, and lastly some will fool around. As a team leader I hope for the first 2.

We try to make sure everybody has an important role, and no students are put to the front of the group because of thier parents. Some students find thier way to the front through hard work and creative ideas. If you feel some students are unfairly benefiting from their patents' help I would hope you could approach your team leaders and they would listen. It may help to write down the problems you are having and, how those make you feel. The last thing you want to do is threaten your team leaders or mentors with an overthrow. It may help if you have your parents talk with the team leaders.
Good luck

Eric Bareiss
03-22-2004, 12:17 PM
If this is truly what you say it is; then you need to talk to this person, get at least three students from your team that feel the same way. Preferrably a teacher should be there. Sit them down and politely say that would like them to step down and leave the team or drastically reduce his role on the team.

The key is going to be leaving it at that. DO NOT threaten or accuse them, this will lead to arguing. They will get mad and yell so you can't. You have to stay calm and stand your ground. Don't say anything specific. Just say that some of you would like them to leave the team.

You are the student and it is your team. If someone is ruining your FIRST experience you have the right to ask them to leave. Keep in mind you must know that a majority of your team must feel the same way as you before you should do this.

Aaron Lussier
03-22-2004, 12:20 PM
Quite the predicament your team is in, If I was in your situation this is how I would approach it:

1. Hold a mandantory All-Hands meeting, address the situation head on, this will require someone to stand in front of the entire team and the parents and say what needs to be said. If all can be resolved from talking about it with the entire team thats wonderful, if it can't however...

2. Search the FIRST site, and other FIRST sites i.e. Chief Delphi for Quotes that you belive embody the spirit of FIRST, try to show these parents that it is not just about there kid succeding, it is about the ENTIRE team working as a TEAM. If they still dont get it...

3. Begin looking for new mentors and parents to help out, If these parents and there child can not grasp the simple concept of Working together and teamwork, then in my opinion they dont deserve to be on a FIRST team. I realize this last step is extremely drastic, but if they dont get it... they dont get it.

I hope this helps, and remember when you are talking to them, maintain a calm demeanor, if they begin yelling or screaming simply ask them to calm down so you may finish what you are talking about. If need be talk directly to them when addressing the problem.


Ryan Albright
03-22-2004, 01:24 PM
Wow this is competely stupid and if this is a club at your school you should go to the principal or such. FIRST is for high school students, parents can bring great advice and especially food, but they have already picked were they are going in life. FIRST is for the kids to help them along for the future. You should have a sit down meeting and talk with these parents. In our team there our arguments between the mentors and the students but since its a student run team our elected captain gets the final say. I suggest having a meeting and electing on Student leader and one Mentor leader, so at the end of the day if there our qualms or dispuits they are brought to the two leaders and they have the final say. Its great to have mentors that are willign to help, BUT A ROBOT SHOULD NOT BE BUILT BY MENTORS. The students dont learn anything and that is the whole point of FIRST

03-22-2004, 01:50 PM
I feel so horrible that your team is having to go through because it is a difficult postion to be in. I agree with what CrazyBear said about Honesty being the best policy. I also agree that the TEAM should try and talk to these parents.

I am assuming that the parents are only one set of parents and not the entire group of adult parent leaders on your team but if that is incorrect, I am sorry and my help may not be as much help. Although I have never experienced this situtition on my own robotics team, I have experienced it in a different orginazation.

For the most part, parents tend NOT to listen to students when they try and correct a problem as this. This has nothing to do with the student really but rather the expectations parents have on teenagers in general. It would be best to involve another adult, prefarablly someone a little older then the parents themselves. At a young age we are talk to respect our elders and it tends to be true, even at 40-50 years of age. Parents usually tend to listen to someone who is either their age and that they respect, or a little older then them and they respect. Your words will be heard a lot better.

Do not gang up on the parents. I doubt they honestly mean to make it all about their son and I doubt they really see what they are doing. They are proud of their son and they are proud of what they are doing. They more then likely think they are helping. Parents tend to be like this. Talking to the parents one-on-one or in a small group is the best way to handle it. If you gang up on them, they are going to get defensive and at that point, they are not going to listen to you.

Let them tell their side of the story. Maybe they see things differently then you. Maybe they yell when other students tell other students to do something because they feel that you are being too bossy or overbearing or hazzing the students instead of trying to help. If that is the case, explain to them what you are doing. Parents are human and because of that, they aren't perfect. They are only going to react to what they "think" is going on, whether that's what is going on or not.

I am not sure what decisions are being made without the students being involved but I must point out that sometimes, that's the way things have to be. Students do not always have all the answers (even though we like to think we do) and they are just trying to help you. They are there for you guys because they love and care about you. They may be making decisions without you because they know in their hearts, that's what is best for you. Now, I might suggest that you talk to them about this and ask them why that decision is made and try and have an honest, open communication with them about it.

Do not...and I repeat...DO NOT whine, cry, beg, plead..etc...if you don't get your way. They are not going to listen to you and in the end, you are only hurting yourself. Talking about it in a calm and rational way is the only way that things will change.

If you do all this and nothing changes, I would suggest talking to your leader. If these people are your leaders, try talking to whoever is above them. If there is no one above them, talk to someone at FIRST. I am sure that if you keep talking, someone will listen and take notice.

I hope this helps.

Mr. Ivey
03-22-2004, 02:45 PM
From expirences, dealing with an adult that is acting in an overcontroling manor, it's not the greatest idea to call a meeting of a bunch of students to talk with them about this matter. The adult will sometimes see this tactic as a way of "ganging up" on them, or just argue even worse in the idea that you, the student are being disrespectful to an adult. This may be an occourance that other parents or teachers need to take care of. You don't want to cause trouble with the team member's parents. I'll touch on the issue of threatening to kick someone off the team. It is acceptable in certain situations, for example, a student is causing trouble, and has been sat down and talked with by responsible adults about their behavior on numerous occasions, and has been repremanded for their actions in an according maner. But from the comment that if you tell someone to do something, and the adult threatens you for telling someone to help this does not sound right from this man's opinion. From my standing you really need to get another adult in this situation, it really sounds like something that could get realy ugly if students try and work it out. Adults will always be respectable twards each other by courtsey, as I have seen, if you have a parent or teacher talk to these parents there will be a better line of communication and hopefully your problem will be resalved in a civil maner. Hope what I have said helps.

03-22-2004, 03:55 PM
I've been the school contact for 8 years now and have worked with 3 different team leaders -- 2 are/were parents, 1 was an engineer. Leadership styles differ greatly and how much input is accepted from different team members has varied per the leaders. One leader put almost everything to the team to vote while another one had a parents' advisory committee making many important decisions behind the scenes.

The key question is: if this leader were to step down, would someone else be there to take his/her place? I don't think most people realize how time intensive running a FIRST team is. Some teams may have the luxury of choosing among a multitude of volunteers for the key leadership position and can actually select someone whose judgement, style, and experience makes them a good leader. But for others, there is only one volunteer and without him/her, there will be no team, regardless of whether this person is a quality leader.

If there are other adults willing to step in for this overbearing parent, then perhaps a group of you frustrated students and these adults could meet together to determine a game plan to work with this leader. If there are no other potential leaders, then perhaps the best you can do is to volunteer to "do" some key tasks for this leader -- areas where he/she could delegate not only the work but also the responsiblity to you -- you get to experience more of a leadership role and he/she gets some stress removed.

I wish I could say that all leaders are good leaders. I think most of us are realistic enough to know that is not true. Learning to work with a less-than ideal leader is great training, though, for when you'll get a less-than-ideal boss.

One key thing: if this leader knows he/she can rely on you to do all you have committed to do, then he/she is going to be more apt to listen to you when you make some suggestions. In other words, do something to prove yourself worth listening to and be supportive every time you can be, so that you don't come across as an always-complainer.

Some people think this contest is only about robots! Personally, I think our students and me personally have learned more about how to work with people -- an important lifeskill as well.

Penny Ross
Hope Chapel Academy

03-22-2004, 06:19 PM
First, you may say the whole team is against this Parent and son, but I would make sure it is EVERY SINGLE MEMBER before saying that it is everyone. I say that from experience.

I don't really know what you SHOULD do, but let me share with your the story of my teams first year. You may be able to gleen something from it.

Our team got off to a rocky start. When I say that, I mean that every problem that we had was due to the administation at our school. We got a 10k grant no problem, and a partnership with an IVY league school no problem. We designed it, built it, worked together, became quite the tight-knit group of students. Our school didn't even really care about us until we took home the Rookie All Star award and proved that we aren't just some delinquents with power tools.

Back in October, we asked about 7 teachers to be our moderator, before finally finding one that agreed. She was great in securing the money (although the first phone call was made by a student, and the 10k offer was made to that same student) and was fantastic for keeping everything organized. But we had a (get this) disagreement over what Gracious Professionalism meant. She made an 'unconditional request' about a certain aspect of the game. She thought it was not in gracious professionalism to go into the other half of the field during the game and take balls from that side. And she put her foot down about it. When we said that we wanted to keep that option open, as the balls are super bouncy and no other team would have the same mandate, she became adament. About half our team was against her, 15% were with her, and the rest just wanted to build a robot.

Anyway, the way she dealt with this 'unconditional request' (I put that in quotes because those are her words) was neither gracious, nor professional.

Long story short, she quit the team during build week 2. It was our schools exam week too. Right in the middle of Exam week.

So the rest of us stepped up. She had appointed me as Captain (I was the original founding member. It was I that first heard about FIRST and, along with a small group of friends, got our school's team going), so I lived up to that. I took charge of every meeting, kept people on task, solved disputes, made sure everyone was doing the jobs they were supposed to be doing . . . in short, I did a lot of things that typically, an adult would do for a team.

Our school found us another moderator, a retired alumni. He was great. Why? He used to work in administration and didn't know a thing about engineering. He left the building and strategy COMPLETELY up to us. He took care of our hotel arraingments, shipping, all that stuff that we really don't prefer to deal with.

We worked hard, and we set our own build schedule. We met everyday at noon over February vacation, and voluntarily stayed until past midnight on most of thoe nights. We were not instructed to do so by any adults. we knew what we had to get done, we knew what we wanted to get done, and we did it.

In fact, on Thursday at 5pm, we desided to radically change our design (well, as radical a change as is possible for a rookie team with the most sophisticated tools being handdrills, and having to have the bot COMPLETE by Saturday morning.) We decided to add a second deck above the first, add an arm that could reach up to the bar (we had a prototyped design, just had to build the actual) and use pneumatics to position the arm (we had said 4 weeks previously that we WEREN"T going to use pneumatics. So none us us knew how to hook them up right.)

What happened?

WE, the STUDENTS made the decision to do all that within 39 hours, and we did it. We did everything we said we would.

My fear is that next year our school adminstration, or even the college we're partnered with will try to take a more active role. Our team was student run. It worked well. I learned how much I could do, and in reality, I doubt I could have learned that without our moderator quiting.

So what to do about this adult?

Again, make sure the whole team is against her before saying the whole team is against her. Second, be nice to said person. As tough as it may be, be nice. Third, be nice to the son of said parent. And lastly, I would say take charge. As much as possible, YOU need to take chage. Not usurp power, but simply make sure your team is as good as YOU can possibly make it. My goal was never to fight administration, my goal was always to look out for my team. And even after build season, I had an arguement with the top adminstration about raising funds so that we could go to Nationals. The way it WAS set up, there would be no way that few people on the team could afford it. So I took it upon myself to argue with them and make sure the whole team oculd get down to Atlanta.

You'll always have problems with adults. As far as I can tell, there will always be that overbearing parent, the stubborn administration, the quirky and too-aloof engineer . . . but there will also be the VERY helpful parents, the EXTRAORDINARY engineers that teach rather than do it for you, and the FANTASTICALLY DEDICATED students that make up a FIRST team.