Avoid being “that” parent or volunteer

Be the parent or volunteer that brings joy, not headaches, with these easy tips.

We all know the dreaded parent or volunteer that we try to avoid at events. If you find yourself dealing with one of these people in your life, try one of these strategies to get over them and find that peace we all seek. You can avoid being that parent or volunteer they are all talking about by following these easy-to-follow tips.

“I have no idea what is going on and I don’t attend meetings, read Facebook posts, the newsletter or whatever you send”

Well, that is not helpful to anyone, is it? If you want to be involved as a parent or volunteer, you need to stay informed. Yes, that means reading the information that may be provided or attending meetings to hear the information with your children. Volunteers and staff who run programs are committing a considerable amount of time and really do try to get information out there most of the time. While it may not always be your preferred format of receiving news, please understand there are many ways to send information in today’s world there, so it is impossible to use them all. If you really think it needs to get out there in one more way, volunteer to help transfer the information to that format.

Always late

Being late is not polite, it shows disrespect to the other person and a disregard for their time. I understand it happens to all of us in today’s busy world, but it should be avoided when possible and proper planning can help you avoid this issue. When you are late to a class, do not expect others to stop and start over to catch you up.

Strategies to help those chronically late include asking them to arrive early or asking them to stay with their children so you are not waiting for them to pick up their children following an event. If you have so many things going on that you have to be late to everything, then you may need to stop for a moment and evaluate if you are enjoying anything. Expecting everyone to wait for you or adjust to your schedule is not realistic.

Questioning authority and how we do things

“Really, I don’t think we need to do it like that, let’s just do it like we always did.” How many of us have heard these phrases and thought, “Wow, I’m just trying to do what I was told, following the policy and procedures.” There is nothing wrong with asking questions or clarifying if there is a better way, but be sure to do so in a positive manner.

These questions are best asked in private and not in front of the whole group. Ask yourself if you are directing the question to the correct person. If it is a question relating to a policy, you may need to ask a supervisor or program director. When you question authority in front of the whole group, you undermine them and that is not appropriate.

“I have a better way, so how about we change things up and just do this”

The volunteers or parents that are leading the activity may have felt the same way when they volunteered to be in charge, so show them some respect and allow them to lead their way. If you have some great ideas—and you probably do—offer to lead another activity a different time; your help will probably be appreciated. Great ideas happen every day in lots of minds, but how they play out in reality is a different, so take that into account. What we plan on paper doesn’t always work out and we need to allow our leaders to have a bad activity now and then and not judge too quickly. Sometimes they try something new and it doesn’t work out, but at least they stepped up and took the time to give it a try. As long as the safety is not a factor, it will be OK. If you really do have some great ideas, write them down, offer to help and consider how you can register as a volunteer to make a difference as well.

Being an involved parent or volunteer is not easy, but takes dedication, time and energy. It amazes me that we all forget that the best parent one day can be worst another, and we tend to forget that forgiveness is key to happiness! Be the parent or volunteer you want your child to be when they grow up; trust me, they are watching!

Michigan State University Extension seeks to engage parents and volunteers and members in a variety of roles throughout the year. Parents and volunteers are valued resources who gain skills, deepen relationships with their own children, support youth in their communities and have fun in the process. If you would like to find out more about being a part of those exciting programs, contact your local MSU Extension office. 4-H grows true leaders! 

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